How Financial Services Can Be More Inclusive to LGBTQ+ Clients & Colleagues w/Cait Howerton [Ep58]

Welcome to episode 58 of The Innovating Advice Show. 

I’m joined by Cait Howerton who is a CFP professional, Accredited Financial Counselor and LGBTQ+, Financial and Social Advocate.

In this episode, Cait and I are talking through the evolving language and terminology used in the LGBTQ community and how financial services professionals can be more inclusive to LGBTQ colleagues and clients.

Cait helps us understand the important differences in saying women and men versus female and male and the impacts of gender norms. She also walks us through how to review and shift the language we use on forms, documents and websites to be more inclusive.

While Cait is working diligently to help create a future where no one is denied access to financial services on the basis of their asset levels, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, etc., we focused this episode on the LGBTQ community because it can be a challenging and uncomfortable topic and it starts with increasing our understanding and opening the conversation.

Humans Under Management virtual event happening

8th September:

Tickets: R500, US$30, £23, AU$42.


Guest Bio

Cait Howerton, MBA, AFC®, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Accredited Financial Counselor®, and Senior Financial Coach. Cait is a NexGen Financial Planner who made a career change into financial planning in 2015. In 2019, she was named an FPA Diversity Scholar and received the 2050 Trail Blazers Scholarship for her commitment to diversity within the financial planning field. Cait is a member of the FPA of Georgia Diversity Committee, a host of the FPA PridePlanners Knowledge Circle, and a member of The CFP Board Women’s Initiative Council. She is an LGBTQ+, Financial, and Social Advocate, and a frequent podcast guest. Cait is a student loan expert, trauma-informed financial practitioner, and emotionally-focused coach. Cait believes that all Americans should have access to equitable, objective, and conflict-free financial advice; it is her personal mission to make sure that financial planning is for all, not just for the few.


01:36 - Introducing Cait Howerton

04:40 - The journey to becoming an LGBTQ+ financial planner

09:45 - Becoming aware of unconscious biases

10:30 - The difference between “woman” and “female”

12:28 - Why it’s best not to assume

14:13 - Gender norms

15:37 - Political correctness or human issues?

17:35 - Using the right language and asking the right questions

21:31 - What “cisgender” and “transgender” mean

23:10 - What LGBTQ+ stands for

26:00 - Reclaiming Queer

27:47 - Sexual orientation vs gender identity

29:15 - Understanding transgender and non-binary

33:25 - How to ask someone what their preferred pronouns are

35:15 - Should you ask someone's sexual orientation when hiring?

37:55 - How to ask questions

28:22 - How to let clients know they are in a safe space

40:50 - Being inclusive and becoming aware of biases

43:30 - Resources for financial planners and advisors

46:43 - Connect with Cait Howerton


Kate: Hi, Cait, welcome to the show.

Cait: Hi. Thanks for having me today. Or I should say tonight.

Kate: Tonight, today, this afternoon. It's happy hour here. I know it's that time.

Cait: It's always five o'clock somewhere.

Kate: It is. It is. So a little background Cait. I was thinking back to how this  started. You've been on my list for a long time. We both serve on CFP Board's Women's Initiative Council. And we had our meeting earlier this year. And during that, there was a lot of talk about bringing more females into the profession and making room for more females. And you kind of chimed in and you said, Hey, we need to make sure we're using the right language. And we should be saying women and not female. And since then, I've seen more and more pronouns being listed on social media. There've been conversations and actions with certification and membership organizations changing the questions that they ask. I realized this is time for a conversation that we should be having at the global level. It's coming up globally.

Kate: So I'm so thrilled and honored to have you here. I'm going to be learning right along with the listeners throughout this conversation.

Cait: Well, thank you so much for having me and truthfully, even as a member of the LGBTQ community, I'm always continually learning as well. So we'll do this journey together.

Kate: That sounds perfect. So let's start then with your journey coming into the profession of being an LGBTQ plus financial planner.

Cait: Absolutely. So know like many that  made their way into financial planning, I likewise was a career changer. I started into the profession sometime around the point that I was around 25 and I was like, all right, Cait, it's time to get serious about quote unquote, what do you want to be when you grow up and what I knew is that I really enjoyed helping people figure out financial issues that they faced.

Cait: I really enjoyed helping people understand their budgets and debt payoff and, what a 401k plan is. And so I was like, well, I should explore this. And so as I started looking into financial planning, I've found truthfully there was a lot of good advice and then not so good advice. and, at that point I discovered the AFCPE and I pursued my  Accredited Financial Counselor certification. So I kind of took a route into financial planning that a lot of planners don't. At first I worked  with non-affluent clients. I wanted to understand the full breadth of finances and what makes you good and what are some of the things that don't necessarily make you bad at finances, but that can get you into pickles and, really started exploring what's next. How do I get into financial planning and wealth management?

Cait: And, I knew that I wanted to work for some sort of fiduciary and preferably a financial planner. so I knew that that meant I would most likely wind up with an RIA or with a FinTech. At the time there weren't as many fintechs that had emerged yet that were hiring. And so, for me,  being located in the Southeast United States, I knew it would be a tough go being LGBTQ because there were so many firms that were predominantly Caucasian, as well as predominantly  men who worked for the firms who owned them. And I started interviewing and came across a couple of positions, was called in to interview and close to the end of the interview, the gentleman told me, "Cait, I think that you'd be great, your qualifications are wonderful, but I don't really think that you're going to align with our niche, with our clientele." And I was like, Oh, okay. And so that was one of those microaggressions where, as an LGBTQ person, you'd had forms of that conversation happen along the way, in and outside of business that you knew it was because of who you were and how you identify. Eventually I did find a firm that was a FinTech located in Atlanta, Georgia, and they're incredibly diverse, minority owned, truthfully, very focused on  bringing financial guidance to the middle class. And, I joined and didn't look back.

Kate: That's awesome. But during that microaggression, what is the message that you heard? How did it translate into your brain when he said, "I just don't think you're going to resonate with our clients."

Cait: Yeah, I mean, so it's one of those for me, because of coming from a community where being LGBTQ+  was not OK. it was something that I truthfully had almost expected, but the message that I most carried with me was 'is there a place for me in financial planning'? WillI actually be able to find a job where I can work as a financial planner and to be out, and serve clientele that where they can also be their own unique, authentic selves. And it was something that was, I was very concerned about. And truthfully, I almost left before I even really got started into financial planning. I was almost like, well, I have to go into another industry because this industry isn't diverse.

Kate: Well, thank you for staying and for sticking with it. And for seeing that, I think that's one of the reasons you did stay. You're like, Hey, I actually need to stay and become a role model to others because we absolutely need this profession internally to reflect the clients that we serve externally.

Kate: You've done so much over the last few years and speaking up and being a voice, you won diversity awards, you've been on podcasts and in the media and you're here with us today. So thank you for sticking through and for helping the rest of us become better because I anticipate when you were in that interview, that gentlemen probably didn't mean anything by it.

Cait: Right.

Kate: And so that's the conversation we want to have today is what are some of those unconscious biases that we hold? What are ways that we can all learn and grow?

Cait: Yeah, absolutely. And truthfully, I see our industry starting to evolve and change now, and I think these difficult conversations, these crucial conversations are   where we have to begin. So I'm definitely excited to be a part of that to be a part of that change and growth.

Kate: Good. So let's circle back to that conversation we had on the WIN Council and, and explain to us the difference between women and female.

Cait: Yeah, absolutely. So, I'm going to actually read one of these definitions directly from the HRC. That's the Human Rights Campaign. And so I know that you said that prior to the call, you'd include that in the show notes. So you guys will be able to go reference up there, but because I'm not the end all be all I'm using this directly from a primary source.

Cait: So your sex assigned at birth is essentially, the sex, whether it be male, female, intersex, or even potentially other given to a child at birth. And most of the time that's based on the external anatomy. at times that's also based on other things such as hormones, chromosomes, et cetera. but typically that's based upon the actual external anatomy versus using women, men, non-binary individuals, et cetera, but falls into the category of gender or even potentially gender identity. And so the HRC defines your gender identity as "one's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither, and how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves." So this gender identity can be the same or different from the sex assigned at birth.

Kate: So taking it in its simplest terms, could we say female, or male for that matter, is the medical definition, like you said, assigned with your genitalia, and then women, man, or other is the gender identity.

Cait: That's right. That's right.

Kate: So one of the things, and this just came up yesterday and I've linked to this in the show notes as well because I  thought it was super timely, was an article in New Model Advisor in the UK. And it was a response to another article. And the situation at a high level was there was an example in a textbook basically where it was talking about a couple splitting up and that it  assumed that the person ending up with the smaller pension was a female and somebody called it out on Twitter. No big deal, but it was just saying, Hey, that's wrong from a number of levels. And I kind of want to dig into that because that gets into unconscious biases around females or women being less than men, it gets into assuming potentially that it's a heterosexual couple.  There are so many things that are going on there.

Kate: And I want to say one of the reasons this conversation is so important is because some of the comments in that original article was 'Oh, this is just snowflakery  and everyone is so sensitive and it's all political correctness.' And I always try to put myself in other people's shoes, whether I agree with them or not, and  try to see where they're coming from and whether I want to, or not, I can appreciate people from different cultures or backgrounds or generations, but we need to change that conversation so that people understand why these words matter and why this language matters.

Cait: Yeah, absolutely. And that's something that, that conversation,  it affects truthfully that that's one of the reasons that for those who identify as  not within the LGBTQ community, this is a really important parallel to discuss why it's so important to understand the issues of those within the LGBTQ community. Because some of these same issues affect  women and men that are not in the LGBTQ community.

Cait: So within the article, they made the assumption that the smaller pension was that of the female identifying partner. That's what we call a gender norm. And so gender norms really trap us into a place of, a man does this and a woman does this, a man makes more and a woman makes less and all of these things. And,  truthfully, those norms are established some point within a society where we just accepted it as truth. I mean, not too, too long ago in American history, men wore wigs and tights. So I think it's really important that we question, why don't we believe this thing and why is this thing a tried and true. And, is it that maybe we're just falling too much into a black and white area versus questioning what we do and what we believe and how we feel?

Kate: Would you have any words to people that might be listening right now and thinking, okay, this is just another conversation on political correctness and everyone just wanting something to be upset by.

Cait: Yeah. And so as far as political correctness, I think politics is maybe an issue of, do we install a bridge down the road or do we not.  I think when we start getting into things such as equality, someone's rights to exist and, and someone's unique identity, those are no longer political issues, but those are human issues. And so, I understand that change is hard from generation to generation. I think that's something that we as humans do is we kind of pass judgment on the next generation and say, Oh, those young whippersnappers.    That's such a very Southern phrase here in the United States. But like, I think that  being willing to have an open mind and to hold a concept in your mind, without necessarily saying, I believe this, but at least giving it thought is, is a perfect place to start in examining these things.

Cait: And it also gives room for other realities to exist. My best friend is the primary earner in her family and   she's married to a man and he's the primary caregiver to their child. And for right now, he's also in school. And so it works for their family. It works, he loves taking care of his daughter and he loves also being happy, having the opportunity to go to school. And so, by examining these little teachings that we believe of what people should be, we're able to then say, what can we do a little differently? What can we give more space to? 

Kate: I love that. And  that does happen so often. We just don't see it enough. Thankfully we're starting to see it in the media a bit more in Hollywood and movies. And I think that definitely helps because those are the messages that kids grow up with and that we start to see around ourselves. And I  want to circle back to the male, female, women, men. When it comes to financial services, whether we're talking about hiring people internally, or documents for clients to fill out, application forms or onboarding forms, are there situations where we should be using male/female?  How should that language be used?

Cait: You know, ideally we would have the opportunity to expand upon our data collection outside of just simply leaving it as, sex, or sometimes it's used as gender. And that technically would be the wrong question at that point. It should instead be sex instead of gender question mark. And so we see that on forms, especially when it comes to insurance, estate, planning, taxes, et cetera. I think first and foremost, we have to examine, why are we asking for this information? Is it truthfully, do we need it? And obviously as financial planners and financial advisors we know that  we're going out to have to collect that data all along the way for one reason or another. So I think it's important for us to ask the right questions for the right time timeframe until our processes at national levels, and at the global level, changes to where we understand  the differences between sex and gender and we  offer more gender inclusive options through the IRS or, through the governing body that taxes or et cetera, paid to.

Cait: We're still going to have to ask male or female sex assigned at birth, but some of the other questions that can be used within  the general paperwork that a financial planner examines would be,  do you consider yourself a member of the LGBTQ community?That will help you understand, are there other planning issues that may have to be taken into account some of which maybe within a state, if you have money being left  to family and will there be probate issues, will there be, issues with the will, is there going to be a lot of fighting within the family, etc. 

Cait: Then also just what is your gender? And you can give a couple of answers there such as: woman, man, non-binary or or even prefer to  self-describe. And so those are those questionsare incredibly helpful for  when you're putting that into  your own paperwork so that you're able to appropriately speak to the person that's across the table from you or across the Zoom camera.

Cait: And then lastly is: do you identify as transgender? This is an incredibly important question to ask because there are a lot of medical issues that come with being transgender that a financial planner, I typically don't try to say should, but a bunch of planners should be planning, should be helping their client plan for. So that's something that's incredibly important too, to ask, because you may not necessarily know if they are transgender or cisgender.

Kate: So there's a lot that I want to unpack there and a bit of it that we're going to repeat, because I think a lot of it bears repeating.  We're all learning on this journey.

Kate: On the cisgender, the first time I  heard that term was actually on Rianka Dorsainvil's  2050 Trailblazers podcast. And I think, and she was like me on this podcast, like, Hey, I'm learning along, I don't know what that means. So let's just pause and what is cisgender?

Cait: Sure. So once again, I'll be referencing my handy dandy, Human Rights Campaign, glossary. And so what cisgender  means is: "it's a term used to describe a person whose gender identity aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth."

Cait: So if you were born and your sex assigned at birth were to be female and you still identify as female, then you are cisgender and if it's not, and if you've chosen to identify  as a different sex assigned to birth then you're transgender.

Kate: So would I  say, I'm cisgender? Am I a cisgender gender female or a cisgender woman? 

Cait: To be most inclusive, typically you would say a cisgender woman. I think that another aspect that I didn't necessarily speak to as far as female versus a woman is that female is an adjective. You know, we're really getting into grammar lessons guys. That could be a female dog, a female monkey, a female cat, and so a woman is very, that's held for, this is a member of the human species.

Cait: So, most of the time when we speak about those things, you probably would say a cisgendered woman.   And this may be, if you  are listening six months from now, this may be completely out of date. So it's always expanding.

Kate: And speaking of, I want to take a few minutes and dive into LGBTQ plus. And when I was thinking back, I mean, I had friends that were part of the LGB...  I think it was just the LGB community at that time in the nineties. And then I moved away to Australia for a couple years. And I think when I came back, then there was a T and then there was a Q and then there was a plus. So it does keep expanding and you and I were even chatting about I guess now the young whippersnappers coming up next and evolving it even further. But let's take a moment to dive into that because it is important to acknowledge that it is changing. And you said that in the beginning all we can...

Kate: really do is all do our best to be open and inclusive and understand where things are at now and how we can best be allies to everyone. And so thinking back it was LGB in the nineties, lesbian, gay, and bisexual.

Cait: Yeah. And so, I mean, now there's LGBTQ.  There was LGBTQIA squared at one point. And then finally they were just like, okay, it's LGBTQ+. And that plus it's just inclusive of a whole gamut of identities. But, as far as those that are most commonly associated, it would be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning. Within that there's also intersex, there's asexual, et cetera. And one of the things that as far as this acronym it's beneficial, but it can also be damaging because something that I think people outside of the LGBTQ community can assume is that we're all the same. Just as people who live on the East coast in the United States  are typically fairly different from those that live on the West coast. There's so many variances between each of those acronyms. So I think it was something to be a catch all from everyone who's different from a cisgender heterosexual person when that acronym came out. And so now it's just this vast, collective for anyone who's just a little bit different

Kate: And thinking back to growing up in Seattle, we've always been very progressive there, I remember it was often referred to as the gay community, but like you said, it's  much more inclusive now. So would the right terminology, you've used it a couple of times, be the LGBTQ community?

Cait: I think it's the LGBTQ community. And actually with an academic spaces, the academics are now actually referring to it as the queer community. Queer at one point was actually used as a derogative word that was used against the community. Over the course of time, there's been a  reclamation. And what's nice about the queer community is  it's comprehensive. That essentially is everyone who's in this full gamut of the LGBTQ plus community can identify as as queer. And  that's at least, I think academics are kind of trying to stamp it of saying like, alright,  you guys have a term it's now you're all part of this. I'm a part of this community. And, everyone's included. So either way, LGBTQ plus or queer.

Kate: And I'm just looking, I've got the Human Rights Campaign glossary up here as well because I wanted to see.  So under queer, it's "a term people often use to express fluid identities and orientations often used interchangeably with LGBTQ." ... 

Kate:  Kind of saying that catch all. And, so thinking back, I think I'm probably thinking of the time wherequeer was maybe more derogatory, so that's sort of being reclaimed and now it seems the word homosexual has since garnered negative connotations.

Cait: Yeah. And I think that's so much because of legislation basically that's been used against those who identify as homosexual. So another part to consider there  is that's going to be your sexual orientation versus your gender identity or expression. And so this becomes a multifaceted layers of Holy cow, this is confusing. So, and that's where   it's important to notate that as, as someone who potentially is transgender, they may not necessarily identify as homosexual. You know, they could still be heterosexual. They just, they have, transitioned to a gende, not assigned to them at birth and, and still be attracted to, someone who would be an opposite sex of them. So they'd still be heterosexual. They would just not be cisgender.

Kate: Well, I'm thinking,  I want to go through  a couple more of the terms that I think we hear more often likely, or maybe are, newly becoming more common and then go back and look at it again from those two angles of, okay, for people that are in the industry or profession as advisors and planners, which of these should matter to employers, why should they matter, what information should be gathered and why? And then looking at it from  an advisor planner perspective of, Hey, this is why you should understand what these are and the financial services implications for them.

Kate: So you've mentioned transgender a few times. So if we can get the definition for that from our handy HRC.

Cait: Sure. So that's going to be, an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex that they were assigned at birth. So being transgender does not, as I mentioned just a moment ago, does not apply any specific sexual orientation. So transgender people can identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, et cetera. So once again, that's those whose gender identity and or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex that they were assigned at birth.

Kate: So then if you hear like a transgender woman, then that would be someone who was born as a male, but identifies as a woman.

Cait: That's correct. That's right.

Kate: So we'd say probably the most famous modern day representation of that would be Caitlin Jenner.

Cait: That's right now that's one that comes to mind most, probably most often, in the United States.

Kate: Yep. And then nonbinary.

Cait: So non-binary is essentially someone who is just like, I don't believe that this is just a binary. Typically someone who is not going to conform to it being male or female. And so I'll read this definition: "it is an adjective describing a person who does not exclusively identify as a man or a woman." So, non binary people can identify as both a man or a woman or somewhere in between, or just completely outside of these categories. and so this is something that, because there's a phrase, oftentimes that gender is a social construct, sex is assigned at birth and that's, like you said before, it's kind of the medical term. gender is, how are we showing up And are we going to abide by a societal norms of what we think that a woman should be, or should look like and what a man should be or should look like?

Cait: And, typically non binary folks are just those where they may identify as either or nowhere in between. They're like 'I just don't really  believe in this.'

Kate: And having a lot, or all, advisors and planners around the world listening to this. I know the show Billions is played around the world. I was at a conference in Israel last year and talking with people there about how much they love Billions. If you haven't seen it yet it's both good and infuriating in terms of a look inside Wall Street here in the US. But Taylor Mason played by Asia Kate Dillon is a non-binary actor. And so that's a great example there. And I believe in the terminology and having read through the Human Rights Campaign definitions, that it's fairly similar in my understanding with gender neutral. And for those that have seen the show they are referred to as they, it's not, is she coming, is he coming using a pronoun are  they.

Cait: Yeah. And it's one of those that  sometimes it's easier, even when you're not reading necessarily referring to someone as, non binary. So often I see it in older materials of he or she, and just using, are they coming? Is this person coming? But yeah, absolutely.

Kate: Once again, that article in the UK, that's what it was. It was, let's just change it to "they." That way we're not assuming the person getting the piece of the pension, is he or she, or man, or woman, it doesn't matter. It's they. And we're seeing that more and more, like I mentioned earlier, people putting their pronouns in their email signatures and in their social media profile.

Kate: So one of the things that came up in a recent conversation, how do you approach and ask someone what their preferred pronouns are?

Cait: Probably the way that I would do that if I were at a conference or post COVID-19 conferences of the past, or just meeting someone for the first time, I would say, hi, my name is Cait. My pronouns are she, her, hers. What is your name and what are your preferred pronouns?

Cait: And the more comfortable you become with that, that little spiel of saying  this is my name, these are mine. What is your name What are yours? It becomes as natural as just simply saying, hi, my name's Cait, what's yours.

Cait: And so, something that  is a really nice byproduct of asking this is that even if there isn't someone in the room that identifies as LGBTQ, there may potentially be someone that is, that is in the room that identifies as LGBTQ and isn't forthcoming with their identity. And at that point you were signaling to them that, Hey, I'm a safe person, or at least a safe or safer person. And, I'm inviting you to be yourself with me. So it's, it's a nice byproduct of asking that question.

Kate: Yes, that's a great way to be inclusive. And I would love to hear from listeners around the world. I'm seeing this happening more, but I anticipate we're still in the very early stages of, I don't even know how common that is, but in the early stages of that becoming more common.

Cait: Yeah. And I'm beginning to see it at conferences in the States  of asking, or just identifying. it's not every time, but I think it is becoming a bit more common.

Kate: So circling back.I can see people saying, Hey, if I'm hiring people I don't need to know if they're lesbian, gay or bisexual. Their sexual preference doesn't or shouldn't have any impact on their work. Are there reasons in hiring within financial services that those questions should be asked? 

Cait: You know, I think that as long as they're asked with understanding the intention behind, why are you asking this if you're asking it as a way to filter out candidates and that you're going to use someone's sexual orientation or gender identity against them, of course, it's probably best to examine one's heart and hiring ethics for the job. but a reason that can be beneficial to ask that is it, cause it can actually help someone  be their own authentic selves at work. And that's something that's just an example of, most cisgender, heterosexual people don't think twice about saying my husband or my wife or my spouse, et cetera. And they come to work and, and our families are such a big part of who we are. And so for someone who  may be a part of the LGBTQ community, they may have actually faced discrimination in the past to where they're forced to recloset  themselves, or they're forced to not be forthcoming with who they are.