Research from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) finds that U.S. women are as financially savvy as men. However, the same research found that superior knowledge doesn't translate into commensurate confidence: women don't perceive themselves as financially literate. Despite being among the most financially literate women in the world, American women are 44 percent less likely than American men to consider themselves knowledgeable about money matters (34 percent vs 19 percent).

Without the confidence in their investment decisions, women tend to avoid risk that might benefit them in the long-run. And by assuming that women are inherently risk-averse, the financial services industry promulgates behaviors that marginalize women investors and further erode their confidence: advisors tailor their language, recommendations and investing strategies for men.

Thus, 44 percent of women in the U.S. with significant personal income or investable assets do not have an advisor and nearly half of women with an advisor feel their advisor does not understand them. Not only do women and the industry lose in this equation but the world is also failing to benefit from the wealth women desire to contribute toward the social good. Like men, women seek performance from their investments. But, they also desire a greater basket of goods. Women want to fund entrepreneurs and social enterprises. They want to donate to charities that fight poverty and invest in organizations with diversity in leadership and that promote social well-being. Unfortunately, the less confident they are, the larger gap we see between desire and action.

Harnessing this powerful cohort of female investors depends on how successful advisors will be at engaging and empowering women to claim their financial mastery. Here are a few tips that might help:

  • Understand what women investors want. Women are not a monolithic market: Women differ from men and from each other in how they perceive wealth and make decisions pertaining to their finances: Women, like men, want good returns. But once these priorities are met, women look to wealth to provide a larger basket of goods, not just for themselves and their families, but also for society at large. Fully 88 percent of women in CTI's multi-market sample want to invest in organizations that promote social well-being.
  • Gender smarts is key. Women do not necessarily prefer a female advisor but they do expect their advisor to have gender smarts and exhibit inclusive behaviors. Advisors who create an inclusive environment--one in which women feel welcome to ask questions and feel assured they're heard and understood--tend to earn women's trust, satisfaction, and loyalty. Across our multi-market sample, advisors who take pains to understand their female client are 42 percent more likely than advisors who do not to earn her trust and loyalty (64 percent versus 45 percent). Additionally, advisors who are sensitive to women's time constraints and manage details women do not have time to attend to are 69 percent more likely than advisors who are not to forge a satisfactory and enduring relationship (61 percent versus 36 percent).
  • Give your female clients additional resources. Besides one-on-one meetings, you can also point clients to numerous websites/resources that can help her learn more about her finances. Be informed and let her know of any investing fundamental workshops, free offerings at a public library, or other financial institutions you feel will empower her to take better control of her finances.

In the U.S. alone, women exercise decision-making control over $11.2 trillion. A virtuous cycle is created when advisors gain the trust of their female clients. This Financial Literacy Month, advisors need to expand their focus beyond literacy and work to build the confidence of women investors--investors who want to leverage their wealth in powerful ways and drive positive social change. If the financial services industry taps into this growing market, it's a win-win for everyone involved.