Money Does More Than Talk: Take The Lead Launches 50 Women Can Change The World In Finance
“Women with money and women in power are two uncomfortable ideas in our society,” Candace Bushnell, author and creator of the Sex and The City franchise, reportedly said.
This line of hers is quoted so often it is available on a “home décor” plaque at Amazon for $8.97.
Take The Lead is tackling these issues of women, money and power in its latest venture launching this fall, 50 Women Can Change The World in Finance.
“This is the intersection of my personal and professional passions,” says Laura Smith Dunaief, Director of Take The Lead’s Leadership Ambassador program and lead trainer in this program.
The effort brings together 50 influential women leaders and aspiring leaders in finance from diverse backgrounds to build a vibrant community that will advance their careers –from mid-career and C-suite– while changing the world of finance.
“There has been a lot of attention paid to women in finance and the elevations of women to senior leadership positions in some organizations,” says Dunaief. “So we are at an inflection point for women to push through and change the environment and culture for women in finance.”
According to a recent Catalyst report, women comprise between 30 to 57 percent of U.S. financial industry employees, depending on sector, yet they make up only between 13 and 30 percent of Executive/Senior-Level roles.
Just 10 percent of all U.S. fund managers were women in 2016, Catalyst reports, with the likelihood of women serving in fund manager roles declining since 2008.
This gender disparity in leadership is sustained at the same time that overwhelming evidence supports financial health linked to gender parity in leadership.
According to a recent EY report, “An analysis of the S&P Composite 1500 found that firms with women in top management roles experienced an increase in innovation intensity – and were worth, on average, about $40 million more than companies with only male leaders.”
EY reports, “Teams with more women have been shown to be better at logical analysis, coordination, planning and problem solving. A report from the Peterson Institute found that 30 percent female representation on boards can increase company net profits by 6 percent.”
In a historic first for women in fiance, Adena Friedman recently was named NASDAQ’s first female CEO and she tells CNN, “You have to understand where you want to take your own career and you have to find ways to make it happen. No one else is going to sit there and do it for you. It’s really up to you.”
Dunaief agrees and says it’s time to end the “business as usual” paradigm.
After graduating from New York University in 1997, she had already been working at Charles Schwab since 1986. With 20 years of experience in retail and wholesale financial services, where she led operations, sales, and trading organizations and company-wide initiatives, Dunaief has also consulted extensively to investment, private and commercial banks and trading organizations to design and deliver leadership and management training initiatives.
Committed to the role of mentoring women in finance, Dunaief has been a mentor at the Financial Women’s Association since 2004, co-chaired the Wall Street Exchange program for three years (and continues to serve actively on the committee) and is in her third year on the Operations Resource Committee.
“I talk to women in finance and some of the younger women believe that regulation and policies have created a meritocracy. They say there is no implicit gender bias and no problem,” Dunaief says.
“And yet a senior woman I know in finance was asked if she could work from home because her presence made the men in the office uncomfortable,” Dunaief says. It was an otherwise all-male office and they preferred to maintain their “bro culture” uninterrupted.
Beginning in October for a two-day highly interactive workshop in New York, with a follow-up one day program the next month also in New York, the 50 Women Can Change The World In Finance is open to women in all arenas of finance from investment banking, asset management, wealth management, fintech, commercial banking, U.S. Treasury to anyone who works for a financial services organization or has a financial role in a company.
Three online virtual sessions with inspirational coaches, mentors and speakers supplement the three days of immersion learning in New York. Two private one-on-one coaching sessions with Dunaief are part of the package and can be taken within six-months.
In addition to accelerating their individual career trajectories by executing their Strategic Leadership Action Plans, participants will design and build a collective action plan. Dunaief notes that “the energy and momentum of the cohort’s collaborative action has the power to truly change the world.”
Honorary Co-Chairs of 50 Women Can Change The World in Finance are Rosie Rios, former Treasurer of the United States and Jacki Zehner, co-founder of Women Moving Millions and also the first female trader invited into the partnership at Goldman Sachs.
This 50 Women Can program from Take The Lead “changes the focus from obsession with problems to shining a laser beam on the solutions—what is working to advance women toward parity, including internal and external thought leadership,” Dunaief says.
In its unique curriculum created by Take The Lead co-founder and president Gloria Feldt, Take The Lead directly addresses women’s relationship with power and intention, internal and external barriers, and changes the paradigm from the outdated “power over” to a more current, collaborative and creative “power TO”—an approach better suited to the very women’s leadership styles that bring higher profits.
The comprehensive four-pillar program involves teaching practical “Power Tool” skills; mentoring, coaching, and cohort building; presenting role models; and driving change with thought leadership. It’s the synergy of these four pillars that breaks the logjam, according to Dunaief.
“We keep tabs on crucial impacts,” says Dunaief, as “90 percent of participants implement their Strategic Leadership Action Plans and claim higher levels of intentionality about their goals and their comfort with embracing their Power TO achieve them.”
Ideal candidates for this 50 Women Can Change The World in Finance initiative have a strong desire to create a new narrative for themselves around their individual personal power and use it to contribute at a higher level within their organizations and drive industry change, Dunaief says.
“They are intellectually curious, have the courage to amplify their voices and commit to the immersive and collaborative learning experience,” she says.
This new program from Take The Lead adds to the suite of 50 Women Can initiatives including 50 Women Can Change The World in Media & Entertainment; 50 Women Can Change The World in Healthcare and 50 Women Can Change The World in Nonprofits.
“It’s not enough to cheer recent high-profile advancements,” Dunaief says. “We need to take this opportunity to build momentum for all women in finance or we will risk sliding back to where we have been.”
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldonwww.micheleweldon.com