In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we are celebrating the women at Freestone! We asked a handful of our female employees to share their experiences and advice for those trying to pave their own path in the wealth management industry.
What advice would you give to other women trying to break into the financial services field?
Jenny Doherty, CFP®, Client Advisor: I recommend getting involved in local organizations, such as the Financial Planning Association (FPA), Young Professionals Group (YPG), and the Estate Planning Council (EPC). Being a part of these organizations has helped me be successful and form new connections with individuals who are also passionate about our industry. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone, it is the best way to grow.
Jenna Brazile, CFP®, Client Advisor: Don’t be afraid to take the chance to move outside of your comfort zone. You may fail, but that is okay. Have the perseverance to continue on and learn from your mistakes. I was comfortable being in the background a lot of the time as I was starting out in my career. But I had a lot of incredible mentors who said, “Jenna, you are good at this. You should go for it.” I learned to lean into my own skills and personality traits that make me who I am. People want to know that they are talking to the genuine you. But the best version of you is continuously improving, adapting, and trying to keep up in our ever-changing investment world.
It is also important to not forget the intangibles. We are a people business – you need to have compassion, empathy, understanding, and perspective. We are also a team business – I wouldn’t be able to have a successful career without the investment team or our operations team.
Jennifer Moreland, CPA, Chief Financial Officer: Try to be open-minded and work to understand other’s perspectives without being offended or judgmental. I think that women offer a unique perspective on many things. If you are willing to listen and make an effort to understand, you can win much more respect and appreciation
I have found success at Freestone by being willing to be a part of our peer group. Having been the only woman in a room full of men for at least three quarters of my career, I have learned you have to be willing to roll with the punches a little. You can learn a few things when you consider different perspectives, so you shouldn’t be afraid to put your perspective out there.
Stephanie d’Ippolito, CFP®, Managing Director of Financial Planning: Finance is a lot more than just being an investment advisor or what we typically think of as a stockbroker. We can encourage interest in the field by demonstrating the variety of roles available within the field. My role does not include sales and I don’t have any clients myself, but I support the team in a variety of ways. Additionally, those of us in the industry need to push our firms to hire a more diverse base. We then need to foster those individuals and provide them with the resources to be successful.
What is your overall view of the presence and status of women in the industry?
Christine Opp, CFA, CFP®, Client Advisor: I think it is still tough because there are certainly obstacles that exist only for women. Many women in the industry put a lot of pressure on themselves because they feel they have to be overly knowledgeable or prepared. However, I think the best advisors are the ones who can admit, “I don’t know, but I can find out for you.” Despite additional challenges, there is so much opportunity for women to succeed in this industry. We are in the early innings of more equal representation at the advisor level.
Jenna Brazile, CFP®, Client Advisor: In my 15 years in the industry, we have made huge strides. But we can always improve. Women have a unique ability to connect with people, an invaluable and necessary skill. We can empathize very well with a lot of challenges other women face which gives us the insight to provide better advice. We can also encourage women to join the industry by mentoring and guiding the next generation.
What advice would you give to other women who are balancing a career and being a mother?
Christine Opp, CFA, CFP®, Client Advisor: I am very fortunate to work for a company that allows me to balance both. My advice is to not hide the fact that you are a mother, it is a strength to show that you are more than just your job. I am a huge believer of staying connected to an industry you love even when you have kids. I have worked throughout both my boys’ lives and am very thankful that I was able to keep my foot in the door.
Amanda Brueggeman, Client Manager: I have been the stay-at-home mom and also the very busy working mom. The advice I would give is to take time for you and your family and make that a priority. When I first started, I let the hours build up and I was constantly stressed in both directions. I felt like I was not doing as much as I could at work and then not doing as much as I could at home. I have found that defining boundaries is really important. When you do that, your mindset shifts so that you can focus all of your time on work when you are at work and then focus all of your time on your family when you are at home with them. It has also been beneficial to me, at least mentally, to have something that is outside of my family, just for myself. My career provides that personal fulfillment.
Kim Hansen, Client Advisor: It’s very difficult to balance a career and family. It’s not always pretty, and it’s nearly impossible to do both with 100% success without support. I have been provided many opportunities so that I could have both. I feel very fortunate for that.
My teammate and business partner of the last 21 years continually highlights the fact that we have different skill sets that complement each other which doesn’t make either one of us better than the other. That is something I always remember and embrace, as I do believe it has everything to do with the success we have had as a team and an organization. That notion has motivated me to pursue the areas in the business that I most enjoy (relationship management and problem solving) and where my skill set is most valued. It has aided me in getting me where I am today in the firm, and in life.
Who is a woman who most inspires you and why?
Ann Gookin, Head of Investments: In a month where we celebrate the historical achievements of women, I don’t have to look much farther than my grandmother, Jean Connelly. She was a television pioneer with a 40-year broadcast career, including a long-running hit television talk show that began in Pittsburgh, where I grew up. At a time when most women were relegated to the kitchen, Jean was writing, producing, and hosting more than 5,000 episodes of The Jean Connelly Show. She received AFTRA’s first Outstanding Woman in Broadcasting award in 1967 and was inducted into the Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. She recently passed away at 97, but her example of breaking barriers and making history as a woman serves as a constant inspiration in my life.
Jenny Doherty, CFP®, Client Advisor: I am an avid backcountry skier, located in Alaska, so look up to professional skiers Tatum Monod and Michelle Parker. Similar to women in finance, they are women living in a man’s world and crushing it. They are inspiring other women and reminding them that we can do anything men can (and often better!).