At Gregory FCA, we’re privileged to work with many inspiring women among our valued clients. In honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to highlight some of these accomplished leaders, as well as their advice and insight for young women seeking to climb the career ladder.
Overcoming exclusion from the “boys’ club”
As women embark on their careers, many feel excluded from the “boys’ club” and informal conversations that can happen while playing a round of golf or smoking cigars, especially in male-dominated industries like financial services.
Stephanie Lang, CFA, principal & chief investment officer at Homrich Berg Wealth Management, shares that young women should not feel discouraged about missing out on such invites. “By being deliberate and forming these connections in other ways like going to lunch or coffee or having periodic check-ins, you can still connect with your colleagues, although it may be a little more formal than the ‘boys’ club,’” she says. “Women can still form powerful relationships and gain respect within their organizations through hard work and by being relied on to get the job done.”
Mariann Montagne, CFA, portfolio manager at Gradient Investments, LLC, also emphasizes adapting and relationship-building. “Whether it’s a golf outing or a trek to the bar, there’s an assumption that women are not interested unless they are ‘jock’ types and mirror the other guys,” says Montagne. “Since face time is critical to success, my ability to develop relationships has been limited. However, it’s improved in recent years when more women have had a larger role in decision making. I try to develop relationships with others in my company and the industry wherever and whenever I can.”
Never stop learning and challenging yourself
The key to growing is learning, which stems from embracing challenges, putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and taking on new responsibilities.
“With every new role I take, I stretch myself just a bit beyond where my skills currently are because I want to grow,” shares Terra McBride, MBA, chief marketing officer of Prime Capital Investment Advisors. “So, my advice to any woman is to acknowledge what makes you uncomfortable. Call it out. Describe it. Name it. And then come up with a strategy for how you’re not going to let that uncomfortable thing stop you. It’s OK to have self-doubt and fear. Just don’t ignore it and don’t let it take control.”
Aoifinn Devitt, MBA, chief investment officer of Moneta, suggests identifying a specialty you enjoy and becoming the “go-to” person for that sector or task through research and practice. “Finance is a dynamic and fast-moving area, and it is critical that we are always learning, evolving, adding to our skill sets and ensuring personal growth in our careers,” she says. “I recommend finding an environment where this is encouraged, where skills will be stretched and personal career development is a focus.”
Confidence is key
While embracing new challenges is crucial to growth, it requires a level of self-confidence that many women struggle with. “Women often lack confidence in their youth,” says Leslie Thompson, CFA, CPA, CDFA, chief investment officer and co-founder of Spectrum Wealth Management. “To overcome this, you need education and credentials. Credentials not only show that you are educated and capable, but others typically respect you more in the workplace if you have them early in your career. It’s essential for women to always be one step ahead of the game.”
Grace Mellis, MBA, chief financial officer at Altruist, believes that being assertive is pivotal to success. “Go for it,” she says. “Don’t be intimidated by a perception that it’s a man’s (or anything that intimidates you) world. You deserve to be there just as much as the next person.”
It’s no secret that women still face challenges and some level of inequality in the workforce. As Mellis moved into executive positions at other firms during her career, she saw pay disparities and a decreasing number of women. Thompson believes women tend to be better received in financial planning roles than investment management, primarily due to the stereotype that women are more adept at dealing with interpersonal relationships and emotions, while men are better suited for roles with less emotional involvement.
However, being a woman in a male-dominated field can also have its advantages. Lang feels empowered because she’s able to bring a unique perspective that has brought her leadership opportunities both within and outside her organization.
Whatever challenges young women may encounter in attempting to advance their careers, they can take inspiration from trailblazers like those highlighted here. This Women’s History Month, we’re proud to celebrate women who provide real-life examples of how to overcome obstacles and achieve great success.