Smart Women in Finance takes aim at stereotypes
In the field of finance – especially financial services – few women make it to the top. A 2016 Harvard Business School study found that men are promoted to executive positions "at materially higher rates than women" and that only 12 percent of the chief executive officers of the country's largest financial organizations are women.
Bryant faculty, students, and alumnae of the finance program, which is ranked No. 12 by College Factual, are determined to change that by empowering women in who have an interest in the field.
Students making a difference
Savannah Miles '19 and Kaylan Conrad '17, now a Financial Leadership Program Associate at United Technologies, wanted young women at Bryant to see the opportunities for them in the world of finance. That determination inspired the duo last year to establish the student organization, Smart Women in Finance.
"If students' mindsets about women in finance change at the university level, the industry will change with us."
This year, Denae Pisano '18 took on the role of president of Smart Women in Finance because she saw a need to get more women involved in finance. “My goal in is to inspire and expose students to the opportunities available in the field of finance. Our organization strives to diminish the stereotypes that finance is "just math" or "a man's job."
Smart Women in Finance "provides a space for women to ask questions and feel comfortable in not knowing all there is to know about finance," Pisano said. "We provide a welcoming environment for those who want to explore opportunities in finance and our executive board members share their own personal internship experience and provide mentorship to members."
The group features speakers at bi-weekly member meetings and at the monthly Women in Finance coffee series that Mara L Derderian, CFP, Director of the Finance Department’s Financial Planning Program helped them start. The speakers are women working in finance in various industries – real estate, asset management, wealth management, insurance, and more – who demonstrate the breadth of the finance industry.
Pisano said one of the group’s most memorable speakers was Sue (Butkus) Pike '94, Managing Director and Business Manager of Asset Allocation Product Management at Wellington Management, who discussed how her decade-long career at Wellington allowed her to seek new opportunities in unfamiliar areas of finance. "These opportunities and her willingness to explore these areas lead to the position she currently holds," said Pisano.
"My hope is that if students' mindsets about women in finance change at the university level, the industry will change with us," said Pisano.
Bryant’s invaluable alumnae network
As part of last year Alumni Engagement Day, Smart Women in Finance brought four alumnae to campus for a "Women in Finance" panel discussion. Organization co-founders Miles and Conrad moderated a discussion between Cristina Destefanis '13, Financial Advisor at Destefanis Financial Services/Cantella & Co. Inc.; Lynn (Raposa) Mangus '99, CFO of the Investment Banking Division, Goldman Sachs; Jennifer (Schwall) Rousseau '11, Executive Director of Cherrystone Angel Group; and Jane Sullivan-Klett '07, Financial Advisor and Partner of Sullivan Financial, LLC.
Alumnae of Bryant's finance program are eager to serve as a catalyst for student success. "I have been blessed to have great men and women in my career to open doors," said Rousseau. "We must all reach down and extend a hand to help someone else clear hurdles and open discussion to career development."
Destefanis said: "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."