Industry Leaders Discuss Helping Women In Crisis, Financial Education And Encouraging Women Into Financial Services Careers
At least one of the panels at the T3 Conference didn’t center on wealthtech – Tricia Rothschild, a Board Member of Morningstar’s long-standing partner Financial Fitness Group (FFG) and Vice Chair of the CFA Institute Board of Governors, moderated a panel titled “Bridging the Persistent Gender Gap in Financial Services.”
The panel featured Maura Cunningham, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rock The Street, Wall Street, Patrick D. Quirk, Executive Chairman of FFG, and Suzanne Siracuse, CEO of Suzanne Siracuse Consulting and Host of the Big Reveal Podcast Series.
Rothschild opened the session by describing the dearth of financial literacy in the U.S. through statistics, including that 64% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, 67% have no retirement savings and 57% couldn’t cover a $1,000 emergency.
Against this backdrop, Rothschild asked the panel to discuss how the audience can educate women who may not have the knowledge or confidence to manage money and how to move more women into financial services careers.
Rock The Street, Wall Street’s Long-Term Program
Cunningham first stated that in the U.S. girls often don’t pursue STEM studies because of cultural challenges, then described how Rock The Street, Wall Street addresses these issues with “a financial and investment literacy program designed to launch high school girls into careers in finance.” The program is currently in 62 high schools in 34 cities across America, Canada and the U.K.
The program’s instructors are all female financial professionals, responding to the fact that, according to Cunningham, “Research shows that women aren’t choosing STEM professions because they don’t see other women there and don’t see their cohorts choosing STEM studies.”
Cunningham’s program is not only reaching female students, it’s reaching a diverse group, including 73% from minority backgrounds, and those without significant wealth, as 50% of the participants are on free lunch programs at school.
Cunningham asked for firms to get involved by providing volunteers, financial donations and other support, and noted that often the female volunteers develop bonding that carries through into the workplace.
Crisis Help, Education And Steps To Take
Siracuse then described the work of Savvy Ladies, whose board she has served on for five years. The organization helps women in crisis situations such as abuse and divorce with a 24-hour helpline staffed by CPAs, attorneys and advisors who hold CFP designations. The organization also empowers women through financial education, including online learning, and serves more than 2,300 women per year.
Siracuse said, “When you’re educating women about finances, not only is it important personally, but it can increase the probability that they will find a career in financial services.”
In addition, she set out a series of steps to consider for those who would like to help, including starting early in a girl’s education; providing internship, professional training and mentorship; communicating with intent, including in job descriptions; considering the different financial motivations and compensation preferences women may have; and supporting community involvement such as conferences. For men allied to the cause, Siracuse said, “Lead by example, it starts at the top.”
“The Results Are Fantastic”
Quirk described FFG’s partnership with Savvy Ladies, providing part of the organization’s educational materials for women, including quizzes, videos, calculators and budgeting tools. FFG also aids Savvy Ladies with investment education.
Quirk related personal stories where he realized early in his career the importance of discovering, mentoring and developing talented women leaders. “I’ve worked with successful women to move them up, and often they just need a nudge and guidance. The results are fantastic.”
Julius Buchanan, Managing Editor at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org