My first “real” job was babysitting when I was 12 years old making $2-4 per hour. My mother made me save 20% of everything I earned. By the time I was old enough to drive, I had money set aside, and with a matching gift from my parents, I was able to buy a car. My parents’ belief in saving had helped me realize a major goal. It made a big impression.
I was going to college to become an accountant, but that plan quickly derailed when I quit college to help take care of my mother who was in treatment for cancer. She passed away when I was 20 years old. I didn’t want to be a burden on my dad given his level of grief, so I started planning to pay for the rest of college on my own. This is what initially attracted me to Raymond James. I heard from a friend that the firm had a tuition reimbursement program for their employees. That meant I could complete my college degree and gain work experience while learning about the industry. I like to say I came for the job and stayed for the career.
As a woman in the financial services industry, I’ve worked hard to blaze my own trail. My first job in operations I worked with women, but once I started getting promoted, there were fewer women, which sometimes felt challenging. I remember when I was named the first female recruiter at the firm, and I was tasked with recruiting advisors from other firms to affiliate with Raymond James. I couldn’t figure out why there weren’t more female recruiters, especially when I realized this isn’t a sales business; it’s a relationship business. The men connected with each other in some ways that I didn’t. They often had similar interests, which I didn’t always share, so I had to figure out how to connect in a different way or on a different level, which I eventually did. Sometimes I heard about the more personal side of their lives; health concerns or fears about transitioning their business because they felt comfortable confiding in me because of the strong relationships I built.
While the experience of young women today is different, there are opportunities to share our stories, mentor young women (and men too), and learn from them. One of the ways I do this is by participating as a mentor through the Young Professionals Network at Raymond James, and by going to schools that have an academy of finance program and speaking with the kids. I’m always pleased to see the number of young women in these programs, and I often feel I’m learning as much as I’m teaching!
Continuing the conversation to attract more women to financial services is exactly that – a conversation. That’s why I’m involved with the Women’s Leadership Alliance. Not only do we share our stories but it is necessary to listen. As President of the Independent Contractor Division of Raymond James, I encourage advisors to have conversations with me, each other, and those who are interested in the industry. It’s the only way we learn and grow.