The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal held a panel discussion recently on women in finance. Panelists included Christine Powers, a partner and tax leader at Abdo; Mary Jayne Crocker, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Bridgewater Bank; Anne Novak, a shareholder and vice president at Meristem Family Wealth and Meristem Trust Co.; Heidi Hukriede, chief operating officer and portfolio manager at Stonebridge Capital Advisors; and Jing Jin, partner, finance at Taft Stettinius & Hollister. LeeAnn Rasachak, CEO of WomenVenture, served as moderator.

LeeAnn Rasachak: Coming out of the pandemic, what can we do as individual women to help each other not only survive but thrive in this notoriously male-dominated field?

Jing Jin : I would like there to be more visibility around women helping women. I gravitate toward my female clients, they gravitate toward me, and I also see my male clients gravitate towards women for various reasons, which include how women approach and solve problems and how we interact with people. Putting it differently, women have unique strengths that should be embraced. We are each in the best position to amplify these strengths in each other because there is simpatico in how we think, feel and live our daily lives. We can help each other navigate and capitalize on opportunities, while simultaneously creating safety to talk about our children and women’s issues in the workplace, with our colleagues, and with our clients, because it turns out that women’s issues are people issues and other people want to talk about them, too.

Heidi Hukriede : A lot of my clients and colleagues, both female and male gained a closer relationship during Covid. I don’t know if it was due to feeling like we were going through a shared trauma or because meetings seemed a little bit more personal as we invited each other into our homes. It created a more relaxed relationship. I think everyone has grown through this whole Covid-Zoom world.

Christine Powers : In the CPA world, Covid was a real eye-opener for women in our field. In the schools and colleges, CPAs tend to be primarily females — 55% female, 45% male — if my math is right. But if you look at CPA firms, the number of women drop off as you move up, so it’s a very small percentage of females who continue moving up in their roles. Coming up in the profession, the mentality was that you had to show up — if you’re not here, you’re not providing for the firm. Covid blew that mentality right out of the water. It really showed that we can all work from home and it’s fine; nothing crumbled, and all the work got done. Covid was a horrible thing. A lot of people lost their lives and family members are gone, many people lost their jobs and livelihood, and so on. But it also made us look differently about the CPA profession and how alterations can be made to make work flexible without impacting productivity, giving women more incentive to stay on as they move up.

Rasachak : What we’ve seen from a WomenVenture perspective is an uptick in new businesses launched by women in particular: corporate executives who become consultants and strategists or women turning a side hustle into a full-time business. Women are business owners and entrepreneurs; they’re decision makers. How does this trend have you thinking differently from a business perspective?

Mary Jayne Crocker : We see this trend as an opportunity. Even before the pandemic, women-owned businesses were up over 21% through the past decade. And today, more than 40 % of U.S. households’ primary income source comes from women in the workforce. We are definitely seeing progress in many ways, but despite the facts, we still see businesses catering first and foremost to men. Products and services from a banking standpoint are designed specifically to appeal to men, and the way business is done accommodates this group. We see an opportunity to change the dialogue and foster an environment that accommodates women. As a bank, we’ve always catered to successful entrepreneurs, and now we’re looking to meet the needs of the growing population of women entrepreneurs and successful business owners. This requires us to think about what this group needs to be successful. We’ve made a special effort to bring women business owners together and create a unique space for them to network with female peers and leverage opportunities to build their business the way men have historically. […]

source Table of Experts: Women in Finance

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