Lessons from women in finance

What can we learn from the inspiring women who have dared to close the gender gap in finance positions? Read on to discover.

Historically, the financial sector has always been dominated by men. Women have faced major challenges in breaking the stereotype and are making headway at an international level.

Even as 46% of the finance workforce today are women, data from Forbes shows that only 15% of this demographic occupy executive positions. This goes to show that while there are more gender-balanced workforces in the field, women still strive for inclusion especially in occupying leadership positions.

In such a harsh climate, it’s only natural that we celebrate the achievements of those who have succeeded in breaking the barrier and take solid life lessons from them. Here is a list of these remarkable women and their groundbreaking accomplishments. 

Mary Callahan Erdoes 

Starting off strong with Mary Callahan Erdoes, an American investment manager and a renowned businesswoman. She is at the top of our list because of her role as the current chief of the executive office of the asset and wealth management division at J.P. Morgan.

Mary Callahan started her career as early as 1996 and has taken huge strides to be where she is today. Erdoes began her as a portfolio manager in the company, with a focus on fixed-income trading. In 2009, she was promoted to become the CEO of J.P. Morgan. With J.P. Morgan being one of the world’s largest investment managers and private banks, her position makes her one of Wall Street’s most influential females.

One of the critical strategies that contributed to her success was understanding the dynamism of clientele management. She’s known to deliver personalized online trading plans and investments to her clients and build wealth through customized solutions for each of them. 

Adena Friedman 

Adena T. Friedman is another American businesswoman with incredible accomplishments in the modern financial sector. She currently holds one of the most influential positions as President and CEO of Nasdaq. She has held this position since 2017 and was recently appointed Chair of the Board of Directors.

Friedman started her career in the early 90s as an intern at Nasdaq and got a full-time position at the company upon completing this internship. She has had many notable achievements since she joined the company. Aside from being the first woman to lead the major US stock exchange, she also spearheaded Nasdaq’s acquisition of the Nordic exchange group in 2008. The company continues to thrive under her leadership, and many young talents look to and learn from her approach to managing her employees. 

Lynn Martin

Lynn Martin currently leads the New York Stock Exchange Group, overseeing everything exchanges and the NYSE group. While holding this position, she has had other responsibilities like chairing the fixed income and data services at Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the parent company of NYSE. She’s also seen managing ICE’s global data businesses including feeds and connectivity services for all asset classes, indices, pricing and analytics.

Lynn began her career as a computer programmer at the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). Her beginnings in the business and finance field started with her role at the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (LIFFE). Martin climbed the industry ladder with every new merger, acquisition, and promotion. Martin is successful because she recognized her strengths as she worked her way up. 

While working at IBM, she realized that her interests gravitated more toward the mathematics of the financial market, which led her to pursue a career in the field. The finance and tech fields had begun to get closely intertwined at the time, and she saw it as an entry point. Her background as a tech-savvy talent gave her an edge in understanding the analytics, statistics, and electronics of financial derivatives. 

Katy Knox 

Katy Knox became the president of Bank of America Private Bank in 2018. At this time, she was the only female member of the executive management team directly working with the CEO, Brian Moynihan. Knox’s leadership has brought about many developments in the company, inspiring other women looking to take the mantle of leadership.

Data from Forbes shows that she has increased the number of advisors serving clients by 40%, moving the company toward new markets and boosting client balances to $578 million. She has had years of experience in the industry and has also held higher positions in several fields like commercial banking, corporate strategy, global treasury management, consumer banking, and marketing.

Knox is not only a leader in her department but also one for the Global Ambassadors Program, which offers mentorship to women leaders globally. A key life lesson to hold on to from Knox is never to underestimate the power of networking. She has connected with many international contacts who have contributed to her successes and fundraising events in the past. 

Kara McShane

The current Managing Director (MD), Head of Commercial Real Estate Capital Markets and Finance at Wells Fargo, Kara McShane, is another worthy figure for our list. She joined the company in 2010 as an MD and has left behind a trail of many successes.

She kickstarted her career at Sanford Bernstein & Co., where she rose to the position of partner in the firm. Kara also worked at Morgan Stanley in 2002, becoming Managing Director of the Securitized Products Group and Commercial Real Estate Capital Markets Division. Kara McShane is frequently listed among the field’s top 50 most important figures. It’s easy to see why she quickly made it to our list of changemakers.

McShane was also appointed managing director on the Breaking Ground board, an organization that is presently the largest sustainable and affordable house developer and manager. She’s constantly contributing to the goal of developing affordable housing for vulnerable and homeless New Yorkers. She has accomplished many other great things and is a beacon of inspiration to younger generations.

What can we learn from the leading women in finance?

While all of these great women have had different paths to success, one thing is common in their stories: excellence. They strive to achieve excellence in everything they do and have risen to the top by being dedicated and committed to their goals.

While there is no denying the competition, especially with lingering gender bias in different fields, there are people who have walked difficult paths and emerged on track to greatness. Exceptional women like these are an inspiration to young achievers in the financial industry, and reading about them is a great way to hone relevant skills.