Published 04/01/17

JenniferSchwallRousseau-LynnRapozaMagnus

Women in Finance: Thriving in the industry

The field of finance – especially financial services – is far more people-oriented than most people realize and could benefit greatly from the addition of women, agreed the five high-placed executives who recently served as panelists to discuss “Women in Finance.”

Keynote speaker Susan Baker, Vice President at Trillium Asset Management, hadn’t planned on entering the financial industry. She was an English major who went on to earn her master’s in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University Graduate School of Education. “Careers are more like jungle gyms than ladders,” she says. “And that’s okay.”

At Trillium, she leads and participates in numerous advocacy initiatives on a wide range of issues including sustainable sourcing, environmental health, labor and human rights, and board diversity. “Social, ethical, and environmental change accounts for $1 out of every $5 in investing dollars,” Baker says. “And it’s not just political correctness to pursue greater diversity. McKinsey and Co. has produced a number of studies showing that gender-diverse teams lead to greater profitability.”

NETWORKING FOR SUCCESS

Lynn (Rapoza) Magnus ’99 took a more direct route to her financial career. Bryant's first Financial Services graduate, she is Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs’ Investment Banking Division. “Networking is the number one most important action you can take to secure and further your career,” she says. “I joined Goldman Sachs right out of college, but left for several years when my husband was pursuing an advanced degree in Michigan. When we returned to New York, I picked up the phone, called a former colleague, and asked him if he knew of any companies hiring. Turns out, he was, and I got the job on the spot.”

"It’s incumbent upon us – women in finance – to redefine the industry.”

Jane Sullivan-Klett '07 

Networking is a natural extension for successful finance executives, says Cristina Destefanis ’13 , Financial Advisor, Destefanis Financial Services/Cantella & Co. Inc. She launched her career through an internship she obtained as a sophomore at State Street – one she was offered by a Bryant alumnus. “I really enjoy talking to people,” she says. “That’s why I went into sales at John Hancock after graduating. When I realized that financial services was my calling, I relied on my network to move into that area. I’ve been fortunate that both men and women have gone to bat for me.”

EXTEND A HAND

When Jennifer (Schwall) Rousseau ’11 graduated, she began working at Cherrystone Angel Group, an angel investing group. She has since become Executive Director and manages operations and serves on the steering, screening, and due diligence committees. “I have been blessed to have great men and women in my career to open doors,” says Rousseau. “We must all reach down and extend a hand to help someone else clear hurdles and open discussion to career development.”

Jane Sullivan-Klett ’07 is a financial advisor with Sullivan Financial, LLC in South Glastonbury, CT, serving business owners, non-profit organizations, retirement plans, individual clients, and families. “I think it’s incumbent upon us – women in finance – to redefine the industry,” she says. “What you do when you first get out of college is probably not what you will do the rest of your life. I’ve worked sales, desk, and research jobs before realizing I wanted to be hands-on with the client. Follow your heart.”

BRYANT’S FAR-REACHING ALUMNI NETWORK

Magnus says, “What’s most important is the company you work for. Is it a great fit? How do they feel about mobility? Research the companies, not just the job, because with a company that’s a good fit for you, you will be encouraged to move around departments to find a job that best suits you. And then, what we can do individually is talk to and mentor other women beyond those who are direct reports.”

Other pieces of advice from the panel include: “Be fearless,” from Sullivan-Klett; “Speak up at meetings because that shows your interest and intellect,” from Rousseau; and “Don’t second-guess yourself,” from Baker.

“Be open to any and all opportunities,” says Destefanis. “You have an amazing resource in Bryant’s alumni network that provides paths to the Big Four accounting/consulting firms. Use it...and be one.”