White House, Treasury Host Inaugural Women in Finance Symposium

The event was driven by the Treasurer of the United States, Rosie Rios, as a part of the agenda of the White House Council on Women and Girls, formed by President Obama about a year ago. Students from all over he U.S. were invited to watch the discussions as they streamed live over the Web. They will also be available as an archived Webcast, here.

The opening panel, including Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairman Sheila Bair, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Schapiro, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Christina Romer, Small Business Administrator Karen G. Mills and Congressional Oversight Panel Chair Elizabeth Warren, with moderator Maria Bartiromo of CNBC, discussed "Women Drivers of the Economic Recovery: Pathways to Success."

A second panel, "The Landscape and Challenge of Women in Finance," included President of the American Council on Education Molly Broad, Senior U.S. Investment Strategist for Goldman Sachs Abby Joseph Cohen, Director in the Strategic Client Group of Morgan Stanley Carla Harris, CEO of Citi Personal Wealth Management Deborah McWhinney and President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board member Laura Tyson, with moderator Liz Claman of FOX Business News..

The women on this panel stressed the importance of finding "mentors" and "sponsors," who can be immeasurably helpful for both men and women. Cohen spoke of the "satisfaction that one gets from being a mentor, or more importantly, a sponsor." Sponsors are different from mentors in that they are the people (sometimes, but not always, bosses) who make suggestions and decisions for promoting and furthering careers--who will speak up on your behalf you are not in the room. She also explained that if you're one of the "people who develop talent--that reflects well on you." Of course, mentoring and sponsorship is not limited to one gender--many of the women at the conference noted how much and how many men have helped them in their careers.

Women need an agenda

Early in her career, Harris says, she didn't have an agenda. Her advice to the 22- or 25- year-old women coming out of college or business school is "If you have an agenda it makes it a lot easier to navigate" where you want to go in your career. She tells younger women to "know what skills, what network of relationships" will you need to have to get to the career "seat" you want, in "two years, five years, 10 years."

Tyson noted that the "best organizations" are searching more "broadly" for talent in a more diverse pool and added that there's a need for "clear, transparent, non-biased performance metrics" when companies look to hire and promote people.

Don't get stuck; get out

"If you get behind a blocker," McWhinney advises women, "don't be afraid to go to another company," and take advantage of the opportunities there. She also had a few words of caution--especially for people who are looking for a job--about social media: "people will know if you're not a good teammate, manager or not a good person. Be fully aware that social networking can be your friend--or not--and everyone is using it."

Note: Wealth Manager will name the 50 Top Women in Wealth in early May, along with results and analysis of the findings from our exclusive survey of Top Women in Wealth Management.

Comments? Please send them to kmcbride@wealthmanagerweb.com. Kate McBride is editor in chief of Wealth Manager and a member of The Committee for the Fiduciary Standard.

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