By Natalie Sabia (New York City)
On a spring evening in New York City, women from all aspects of the financial world, including eager business school students, gathered to hear from a few of Wall Street’s successful and smart, yet entertaining, women. The event was sponsored by Fordham’s Wall Street Council, and advertised by women organizations such as “100 Women in Hedge Funds” and “85 Broads.”
Only two years old, Fordham’s Wall Street Council (FWSC) has exceeded the school’s expectations by organizing networking events such as this one. FWSC started with 25 people, within Fordham’s Graduate School of Business Administration (GBA), who were interested in building out their network while also helping fellow students grow theirs. The goal is to foster collaboration among other GBA students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends interested in expanding their network and opening up career opportunities. This group also offers an avenue to get involved with GBA faculty, which helps with their visibility and mission. “Try to meet someone tonight you’ve never met before,” said David Gautschi, Ph.D., Dean, Fordham Graduate School of Business. “Try and also talk to some students,” said Gautschi.
An interesting open to the gender discussion from Iftekhar Hasan, Ph.D., E. General Corrigan Chair in International Business and Finance, Fordham University Schools of Business. He analyzed CFO activity between females and males, specifically looking at the turnover among S&P 1500 companies. The results showed overall, every time a company became troubled, a woman CFO is typically hired. The company then becomes more conservative, has a higher level of tangible assets and the cost of borrowing is lower. “Typically, the cost of borrowing for that company becomes 14 percent to 30 percent cheaper because the market recognizes women are less risky,” said Hasan.
When asked how she became a successful CFO, especially with a background in history, Heidi Miller, who served as president of J.P. Morgan International and is now retired, decided to put her thoughts on success in the world of corporate finance into a set of rules to live and work by. Work for people you respect, both as an individual and also as a boss, take jobs that are enjoyable and cultivate your network, just to name a few. “Sometimes people get stuck in jobs they don’t enjoy,” said Miller. “I benefited from jobs that were enjoyable to me, but maybe less desirable to others.”
Two other important rules: It’s not the name of the organization, but it’s what you do in a given day that is important and lastly, be flexible. “Sometimes you have to roll with the punches,” said Miller. “Our world is constantly changing; you must constantly learn and reinvent yourself.”
Cathleen Ellsworth, Managing Director and Chief Marketing Officer for First Reserve Corporation, described her career path as both hard work and determination combined with a little bit of luck. “You have to set the opportunity,” said Ellsworth. “Your network can be anyone; you never know who can be the one to help you open a door.”
The first to attend college in her family, Ellsworth echoed Miller’s point on being flexible in today’s work place. She advised that one must be proactive in her career and focus on the work at hand. On her team, being flexible as a manager is also important, because things will always come up, and for her, it’s just a matter of making sure the daily tasks have been accomplished. “It’s all about the work and how it will get done,” said Ellsworth. “I love my job and my team; I love bringing them up.”
In response to a question regarding how to handle the issue of being judged on your name (being a woman’s name versus a man’s) when submitting your resume, Kathleen’s response was simple, yet classy. “There’s prejudice everywhere,” said Ellsworth. “Keep trying and just keep getting better because you will be at a disadvantage by getting mad.”
Closing the night, Rae Etherington, Managing Director at BNY Mellon in the Independent Risk and Compliance division, brought up a hot topic these days for women all across finance: compensation. “Men are more likely to jump to another company and get paid for it,” said Etherington. She referred to her fellow panelists as “the amazing women’s club” and also reminded the room about the unfortunate low representation among women executives on Wall Street.
“Men still account for almost 90 percent of CFOs for companies in the S&P 500 Index.
With so much advice to give young women all across finance, Miller saved her two most important rules for last. First, always bring other women along with you. And second, working mothers should find what is comfortable for them. “If we don’t help others, it won’t happen automatically,” added Miller.