IIG Board Member Lisa Mullan and her mentee Lauren recently sat down to talk about their experience.
What's special about having a female mentor or mentee? How is it different than if you were in a co-ed exchange?
Lisa: We can have an honest conversation about how to navigate financial services workplace as a woman. Our conversations are broader than just the workings of the job. It’s good to have both male and female mentors & champions in your workplace.
Lauren: It has been helpful to be able to have candid conversations about not only the technical skills of finance but also the roles of women in leadership positions in general. It is wonderful to see how Lisa has paved a path for herself and I have learned a lot from her experiences. I also agree that it is good to have both male and female mentors. In addition, it is extremely beneficial for me to see representation in the workforce and have a strong woman as a mentor.
Explain the ways in which your mentor or mentee has inspired you.
Lisa: I can’t wait to read about Lauren in the Wall Street Journal for conquering the financial services world. She is competent and smart beyond her years which attests to her personal development achieved at such a young age. I am blown away at her intelligence, curiosity and level of maturity. Lauren has a bright future ahead of her.
Lauren: Lisa goes above and beyond to be a caring and thoughtful mentor. I am inspired by not only her technical expertise, but also by her incredible ability to make others feel engaged, welcomed, and comfortable. I have learned so much through hearing her experiences and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to have her as a supportive resource.
Why is learning about personal finance an all-girl environment important or useful? What kinds of risks can you take that you wouldn't in a co-ed environment?
Lisa: Girls take more risks in the classroom by asking questions that meet girls where they currently are with the topic. They don’t shy away from asking tough or what they may perceive as questions others already know the answers to, as they might in front of boys. Most importantly, girls ask 100% of the questions in the class. They lead the discussion and direct the conversation with their thoughts and ideas. Lastly, girls are more likely to listen to 100% of the content as content relevant to women, and not content that is left for the men as prescribed by societal norms.
Lauren: Being in an all-girl environment to discuss finance creates a place for positive and empowering word choice. It makes girls feel comfortable and confident to discuss issues with peers that will encounter the same challenges without fear of being overlooked or spoken over. By being able to identify with all the people in the room, girls can be fearless in their pursuits to navigate the world of finance.
Why do you think we need more women in finance and financial services careers? What benefits do both women and companies gain from including more gender diversity?
Lisa: Getting to 40% women across all hierarchies of financial services management is key to creating gender parity from a social perspective in addition to creating a more effective and holistic decision-making process. Both lead to healthier work environments and results.
Lauren: Having more women in finance incorporates the needs of women into business models. With more women in finance, the industry can open up to a greater population to provide accessible resources for a demographic that may have been previously ignored or under-represented. It is great for women to be provided new opportunities and it is plus for businesses to be more attractive to a larger clientele.
What does workplace diversity mean to you? How have you and your mentor or mentee addressed this issue?
Lisa: We’ve addressed the issue in our conversations. As a society, diversity and gender parity are just coming to light given the events that have unfolded in recent years. There are the obvious numbers in the workplace that reflect gender disparity, but we scratch our heads on why this is the case and how we got here. We know some of the behaviors that have led to these disparate numbers, but we are just now becoming aware of the nuanced programming that has brought us to this place in time; from the way we speak, the language we choose, and the labels imposed by our environment. (For example, why do we have the job titles “stewardesses and stewards”, “actresses and actors”, or “waitresses and waiters” when these people perform the same job, gender aside. A second example is looking at the classroom parents at our schools that are dominated by women while the school boards are dominated by men). There is much room to grow and much progress to be made on this topic beyond our mentor/mentee conversations.
Lauren: To me, workplace diversity is about being inclusive and surrounding your workforce with people of different backgrounds, identities, and experiences. By creating a diverse workforce, people can learn from one another and both widen and deepen their perspectives. In any job, especially in finance, it is essential to be able to understand the needs of others. While Lisa and I have discussed topics of diversity and the importance of representation in the workforce, this is a topic we have just scratched the surface of. Diversity is full of nuances and requires an open and on-going conversation to continue to make progress towards equity, inclusion and acceptance in the workplace.
The Invest In Girls Role Model Exchange is one of the elements of our overall program. Role Models are women currently working in the financial services industry who have committed to sharing their experiences with girls who have demonstrated an interest in a career in financial services. Role models exchange emails with their mentee, attend IIG events if geographically feasible, and oversee a long-term research project designed in conjunction with IIG staff to give the mentee "real world" experience. We will be recruiting new Role Models for the next academic school year starting in August 2018.