My life purpose has been to help women overcome adversity.
To help women find their voice, their self-efficacy and to live life on their terms, unafraid and without apology, to be empowered. I originally began my quest in high school as a volunteer working with elderly women at a local nursing home. I later became a soup kitchen captain where I worked with mothers and children. I began providing financial advice to women when I was promoted to senior financial positions in the corporate world. As the global controller with Mars inc., CFO with Telcordia Technologies and Geller & Company and Vice President of finance with Cendant Corporation, I often found that I was the only female in the room. As one of the few female financial leaders at these organizations, women would come to me for guidance on their 401(k)s, refinancing their house or a property settlement in a divorce. I would help them and it gave me a sense of purpose. I loved the idea that I was helping these women.
When I became a financial planner, I continued to be a women’s advocate by frequently providing free financial advice for financially distressed women. I became a CFP® (still the only female leader in my firm) and this became my own personal project. Most recently ,I have begun to work as a rape crisis advocate at a rape crisis center where women are anything but empowered. I have looked for ways to provide pro-bono services for women, deliver workshops (where the attendees wouldn’t let me out of the room) and provide information that could help them.
And Something Amazing Happened….
I began to get phone calls and emails from all around the country. Women were eager to find compassionate and intelligent solutions. I began to connect with these women on a deep and meaningful way. I knew that this was my life purpose but it began to become larger than me. I couldn’t possibly help all the women that I wanted to help.
They say that lightening doesn’t strike twice but something Amazing Happened Again and this time it Changed Everything…
It began when I realized that we women were still the minority in the room. Being a Financial Planner and working with people, making a difference in their lives is one of the most satisfying and inspirational careers a person can have. Yet as a professor of financial planning at Rutgers University, I had trouble getting the women excited. They had a question. Why is only 1 out of 5 CFPs a woman? Good question.
The finance industry has been a male dominated industry for a long time, making it difficult for women to be successful. I have personally experienced intimidation, marginalization and had my abilities challenged over and over. I have had men wanting to control me and I have felt oppression. Of course it doesn’t have to be that way but money is the ultimate resource and as most social scientist will tell you, those who control the resource, control the power. Those providing leadership for the financial services industry, the ones who control the resources are the most powerful of them all (with egos to match), not something for the faint of heart or for the weaker gender.
The financial industry was created by men when women did not participate in finance. Historically the industry has consisted of men advising men. Men tend to approach money differently than women.
Historically the industry has…
- employed risky investing strategies, focused on the gamble, not on long-term sustainability and success of the individual.
- tended to focus on sales objectives to grow profits for the company instead of counseling and advising objectives which improve client’s lives.
- assumed that women are not interested and are not capable of understanding, deeming explanations a waste of time. This creates intimidation and prevents discussion that can provide understanding and partnership.
I know I am not the only one who recognizes this or who has their own personal experience but since we don’t want to appear whining, complaining or male-hating, we don’t say anything. In my past I ignored the gender bias but when it got oppressive, I left and found something else. The financial industry is not exactly holding out a welcome mat which is why we have very few role models or mentors in the profession. I realize that I might be able to provide some mentorship which is why I founded, Women’s Money Empowerment Network. We are a network of women financial planning professionals providing support and opportunities by connecting them to women who are looking for compassionate and intelligent solutions. Women who want the straight talk and empathy that women financial planners offer. We are women helping women. We are the
We can work outside and around the financial institutions. We can make our own rules. Female Financial Planners have found our voice. We invite all to join us. There is no cost or obligation. It’s time we support each other. Together we can improve lives.