How This Investment Advisor Wants to Build Financial Power for Women

Linda Davis Taylor, CEO of Clifford Swan Investment Counselors, shares her vision of the growing influence of women in philanthropy and finance.

If there’s one thing Linda Davis Taylor thinks there’s too much of, it’s women taking concessions in salary negotiations. As the CEO and Chairman of Clifford Swan Investment Counselors, Taylor is calling on all women to create a culture where women ask for what they deserve at their jobs.

“I still hear so many women say they don’t know how to negotiate their salary, even women in top leadership positions,” said Taylor, in a recent interview with Philanthropy Women. She wants to see women get much more comfortable with having those difficult conversations that ensure equal pay and benefits for work at all levels and in all industries. She also wants to find more ways to ensure that “we start early enough in encouraging women to understand their role in salary negotiation.”

To that end, Taylor recently created a new tool for young women, to help them plan early for a healthy financial life. It’s called How to Build You Financial Power and Take Your Seat at the Table and it offers young women actionable, realistic advice on becoming aware of their money challenges and getting a plan early in life to grow their assets and invest in ways that align with both their long-term financial stability and their core personal values. Taylor sees tremendous potential for young women today to “harness the power of their money in order to shape the world around them.”

Taylor comes from a robust background in women’s education. For part of her career in financial management, she served as Chief Advancement Officer and later Chair of the Board of Trustees for Scripps College, a four-year private women’s college in Claremont, California. “Scripps introduced me to thousands of amazing women,” said Taylor. “My work centered on philanthropy and financial support of the women’s college, but it opened my eyes to so many issues and barriers that women face.”

Taylor saw many women in philanthropic families who “didn’t have an understanding of the financial system as they might, and didn’t feel entitled all the time to make aspirational gifts to their school even if the family had the wealth.” Women’s tendencies to put their own needs last, or at least several notches down on the list, resulted in women not making the same kinds of pledges to their alma maters as men.

But for women today, that is changing. Referencing the research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute on the growing influence of women in philanthropy, Taylor is seizing the opportunity and providing more services that catalyze women’s impact.  “Women are more often being given the responsibilities, whether we are ready or not, to take on financial roles in our families. Taylor sees her approach as two-pronged, growing both the “competence and the confidence” that women need to become stronger agents of change with their money.

Taylor’s online guide for young women emphasizes embracing student loans as a reality that must be addressed in the financial plan, and uses language like “financial boundaries” to help young women figure out where to put their money, and how to begin saving early and often.

Taylor’s background for creating the guide includes her work establishing a program at Scripps College in financial literacy, helping young women figure out how to get off to a strong financial start after finishing their degree. “This message needs to be expanded throughout women’s lives, but we need to make sure that we start as early as we can to build in those tools. It’s more challenging for women today because they have student debt and may be working in a job that doesn’t make much money at first,” said Taylor.

As women advance in their careers, Taylor sees many who want to get into gender lens investing with their assets. “It’s all connected right now, there’s this global change with more women being active and involved and vocal, and then they’re recognizing there are so many things they want to directly impact, whether it’s with their job or with their giving.”

But for Taylor, it all starts with a woman developing good financial skills early in life. “To be effective as a donor to any organization you want to support, you first have to develop your own financial habits.” With her work with families, Taylor sees an integral part of that work as raising awareness around the issue of women’s financial empowerment. “We try to take a holistic view when we work with a family. We try to help a family be really clear about their value system and their purpose. Women in particular seem to resonate with that.”

Taylor sees multiple benefits to this approach, helping to connect the family and build trust. She often meets with family members as a group and asks them what it means to be part of their family. “That simple question is a tremendous ice-breaker. Everybody has an answer.” From there, Taylor says the conversation often naturally moves toward discussing values and charitable goals. “Those can be tremendous financial education opportunities with families.”

By focusing on financial empowerment of women, Taylor sees more movement for women to influence social change. “Chances are, they are going to be working longer, living longer, inheriting more wealth, so the power will be moving in that direction.”

More about Linda Davis Taylor here.

Linda Davis Taylor is the CEO and chairman of Clifford Swan Investment Counselors in Pasadena, California, and a champion for women’s economic independence and strength. She is a frequent speaker on wealth transition, family governance, and philanthropy, and author of The Business of Family.

All opinions expressed by Linda Davis Taylor are solely her opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of Clifford Swan Investment Counselors. You should not treat any opinion expressed by Ms. Taylor as a specific recommendation to make a particular investment. Ms. Taylor’s opinions are based upon information she considers reliable.

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Kiersten Marek

Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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