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Setting a standard for women in finance


McGee recognized for contributions to male-dominated financial industry

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Judith McGee was recently inducted into Research Magazine's Advisor Hall of Fame and has  worked to bring more women into a field dominated by men.Even before she was named a 2015 inductee to Research Magazine’s Advisor Hall of Fame, Wilsonville resident Judith McGee was something of a legend in the field of financial planning. In the 70s she was the first woman on the West coast to earn the Certified Financial Planner designation. And her legacy is likely to endure: At 72, she remains the CEO of McGee Wealth Management, and is the first of three generations of women to work in the field.

Her success has required more than financial savvy, however.

“You have to be part economist, part banker, part psychologist,” McGee says, explaining that sometimes clients need support and help dealing with sudden financial upheavals as badly as they need sound advice.

McGee, who was born and raised in Portland, had worked in a number of business settings prior to embarking on her wealth management career — ranging from insurance to engineering and manufacturing. She wasn’t especially satisfied by any of those positions.

“It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to look at careers for women,” McGee says. She returned to school in the early 1970s, and ultimately took a class where she wrote a paper exploring the pay gap between men and women.

“The end result of that paper was that you didn’t want to look for a job — you wanted to look for a career, and a career track,” McGee says. “And I think that was probably the most decisive moment that I had. When I went out to look for employment, I wanted to interview with places where I had an opportunity to build a career.”

McGee’s career took off quickly. She was hired in 1975 to work at a six-person financial planning office in Corvallis, where her prior experience in office management made her an asset. The mentorship of the business’s staff allowed her to get a foothold in the financial planning industry, and in 1979 she earned the Certified Financial Planner designation.

The CFP designation, like the field of financial planning itself, was in its infancy at the time. Thirteen men met in Chicago on Dec. 12, 1969 to discuss the possibility that a profession that united the disparate components of the financial services industry through advising might be beneficial to investors.

The meeting led to the formation of the International Association for Financial Planners and the College for Financial Planning, and today is often identified as the beginning of the financial planning movement. In 1973, the first class of students graduated from the College with a Certified Financial Planner certification.

McGee was one of the first women in the country to become a CFP. She became a member of the board of the Institute for Certified Financial Planners, and headed the public relations committee.

One of the accomplishments of which McGee is most proud is having helped to make the CFP designation one of the premier designations in the country for financial planners.

“It was a fledgling organization and a fledgling designation,” she says. McGee hit on the idea of creating a “media award” that was presented to the editor of Money Magazine — which McGee describes as “a $49 plaque” — that recognized the publication as one of the first to support the CFP designation.

“That launched a national campaign, and of course the CFP is the designation of choice for people in our industry,” McGee says.

In the years that followed, McGee became a successful financial planner; she and her daughter Linette Dobbins joined national financial services company Raymond James as principals of branch office McGee Wealth Management in 1989.

Dobbins says that she grew up in the financial planning industry. Starting at age 11, she did filing work and assembling marketing materials. After several years in the insurance industry, she was hired by a brokerage firm, which launched her career in financial planning. She began to work with her mother in 1988, when she was 24.

“As a daughter, she’s always harder on you,” Dobbins says. “You work twice as hard as other people to get the same level of respect.”

Fortunately, Dobbins inherited her mother’s work ethic, and serves as McGee Wealth Management’s president. She says that financial planning is in fact a career for which many women are well-suited, and her mother agrees.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Judith McGee, center, works with Jennifer Currin Gutridge, left, and McGee's daughter Linette Dobbins at McGee Wealth Management in Portland.

“I see this industry as a helping profession,” McGee says. “It’s a great, great profession for women, because it’s caregiving and it’s analytical. It’s detailed, but it’s also unstructured. So it’s a little bit of everything — but mostly, it’s a helping profession.”

At present, only around 14 percent of financial planners are women, McGee says, adding that that proportion has been fairly constant for the last decade. McGee helped to create a “women’s giving circle” at Raymond James that aims to support women interested in or new to the profession.

She adds that the lack of women in the profession isn’t due to resistance within, but more to public perception of the financial services industry.

“In the world at large, it makes great movies to have ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’ But that isn’t the reality of what we do,” she says. “The national firms — all of them — are crying for diversity. Not just women, but women of color, women of different cultures.”

Companies are beginning to develop mentoring programs and other initiatives to help support women entering the field, which McGee stresses as vitally important. Both she and her daughter have worked to try to help bring women into the field, with Dobbins serving on Raymond James’ Women’s Advisory Council, which supports women in the field.

McGee and Dobbins are also working to endow a fund that will support women in the financial services industry. The goal is to create a resource for future generations of women in the field — like Dobbins’ daughters, both of whom work at McGee Wealth Management, and perhaps Dobbins’ granddaughter, who at 9 spends plenty of time at her family’s office.

If McGee’s great-granddaughter does enter the financial planning industry, however, she will have quite a legacy to live up to. McGee says that being inducted into Research Magazine’s Advisor Hall of Fame is “like winning the Academy Award.”

“When they called me and told me about it, I just had tears rolling down my face,” she says.

McGee’s induction into Research Magazine’s Advisor Hall of Fame recognizes her philanthropic commitments in addition to her service to the profession, which range from board membership at the Rice Museum of Rocks and Minerals, the Multnomah County Library Foundation, and the Oregon Business Council’s poverty task force.

“I don’t think writing a check every year makes a difference,” McGee says. “I think being someone who can really influence change, or influence other people for a positive outcome, makes a lot of difference.”

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..