At Ally, we’re constantly inspired by women who break barriers, from the powerhouse women on Wall Street to inspiring entrepreneurs, and most recently, the groundbreaking woman entering the White House, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. We see women making incredible strides toward equality and equal representation each day, but there is still work to do.
The aim to achieve gender parity continues. In the financial services industry alone, women hold less than a quarter of leadership roles. And a record breaking 7.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women — yes, that’s the historical high.
It’s critical to both celebrate and learn from the achievements of women who have earned a seat at the table. So, we brought together two women who know a thing or two about breaking down walls to chat about their own experiences and share advice for the next generation of women in business. Ally Invest President Lule Demmissie and Create & Cultivate Founder and CEO Jaclyn Johnson discussed how women today can continue to fight for equality — through curiosity, confidence, and compassion in both their careers and finances.
Be curious in your career.
“You have to stay curious and ambitious,” says Lule. “There’s no shame in ambition. Refine your approach to use that ambition to fuel both your success and a higher purpose. Both are possible.”
These are two driving forces that can propel women forward throughout their careers. Whether in a corporate setting or an entrepreneurial path, asking questions and trying new things can be a catalyst for conversations and opportunities, opening doors that may not have existed before. And extending your curiosity to a wide network and diverse range of allies can broaden your thinking and create more room for personal growth in the workforce.
Courage is imperative when it comes to paving your career path. “I believe in the mindset: There is no fear, no failure — it’s all lessons learned,” Jaclyn says. Setting high goals and working toward your ambitions can be scary, especially in fields where women don’t already have extensive representation. But to Jaclyn, pushing fears aside and getting started is the most important step. “Just do your research, be confident that you know your stuff, and don’t be afraid to bring yourself to the table.”
Be confident with your money.
Money has long been a touchy subject — in fact, one study revealed that more than 60% of women would prefer talking about death than discussing money with others.
“Oftentimes, women feel shame or feel like they need to hide the fact that they make money or they’re nervous to invest at a certain level,” says Jaclyn. But talking about money is an important way to become more confident with finances, better understand your worth, and discover new, smart ways to manage money. “I always say good things happen when women make money.”
It’s empowering when women share and listen to other women’s financial stories and experiences. The less taboo money is, the more confidence women can have in taking control of their own financial futures — whether that’s through opening an investment account, asking for a raise at work, or implementing a few simple financial routines, like automatically contributing to their 401(k).
Both Lule and Jaclyn agree: Improving your financial position doesn’t have to require major money moves or overly complicated tasks. It’s all about developing smart habits and taking small, thoughtful steps that, added up, will put you on the path toward achieving financial freedom — which allows you more room to take chances and calculated risks in your life and career.
Be compassionate when leading.
When women break barriers and shatter the glass ceiling, they create opportunities and potential for generations of women following them. Representation is powerful in the fight for gender parity in the workforce. But while leading by example is paramount, leading by giving back is crucial as well.
“I measure my life by how many doors I’ve opened,” Lule says. “I think we tend to overemphasize the network we have to take from, and don’t think enough about the network we can give to. But in order to open doors we need to be in the room and that is why we need to shed any shame in our ambition.”
This may look like sharing stories, experiences, and wisdom. The more women who make their voices heard in the business world, the more future generations will have to strive toward and learn from. Giving back can also be more tangible, such as hiring and working with women or investing money in women-owned businesses.
“Paying it forward is so important to improve the opportunities and financial positions of all women,” says Jaclyn. “When you do so, we get closer to having more women in power, more women making money, and more success for women overarchingly.”
Everyone wins when women get ahead.
As we see more and more women in leadership roles, we inch closer to true gender equality. But we aren’t there yet. Today, women continue to make their voices heard as they aim for gender parity in the workforce and especially in leadership positions. Through creativity and ambitious pursuit of your goals, tenacity and certainty in your finances, and a community of allies you can both learn from and give back to, all women can take the steps to find their inner power and share it with those around them — so everyone can have a seat at the table.
Ally is committed to supporting economic mobility for all women.