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How Women Can Lead and Succeed in a Male-Dominated Space

Businesswoman leading a meeting with colleagues / women in finance
Step outside your comfort zone and connect with those in your industry who inspire you.

We talked with three leading financial executives, learning about their journeys and how they achieved their goals in this competitive industry.

Women in financial services are playing a key role in the industry’s future, driving innovation and leading the way into a more digital presence. The rise of women in this male-dominated space has been a powerful trend over the last couple of decades.

We recently spoke with several executives in finance — including some who joined us for our “Women of Wall Street” features at Salesforce’s New York World Tour and Dreamforce events this year — to learn more about their journeys. 

Empowering women in finance

Hear from thought leaders in this Salesforce+ episode on how to further equality for women in financial services, financial literacy, and sustainability.

As a woman in financial services myself, I realized early on that we must take ownership of our careers and not wait for someone to notice our achievements. 

Many of the women we talked to agree that investing in personal growth is critical to building your career on Wall Street. It’s vital to have a safe space to build leadership skills, network, and offer opportunities to support other women. 

Also, don’t dismiss the importance of male advocacy. Make sure you develop good relationships with a diverse range of people, leverage them as mentors, and be a career champion for others. 

These women we spoke with shared stories of navigating their career paths in a disproportionate industry, managing and taking risks, and staying true to career goals — and themselves. 

Let’s find out what advice these leaders offered to help shed light on how women on Wall Street can achieve their goals — and continue to dream big. 

Advocate for yourself — and your successes

  • Michelle Carter, executive vice president of North America Advisors Business Development at Mastercard

Carter leads sales for Mastercard Data & Services in North America, managing a team of more than 100 people and driving revenue across Insights & Analytics, Test & Learn, Consulting & Innovation Services, and Loyalty & Engagement. Carter leads client relationships with issuers, retailers, manufacturers and more. 

“Don’t sit back and let things happen. When I joined Mastercard via an acquisition, I didn’t just wait to see what my role in the organization would be. I met with individuals during the process, shared my existing role in the organization, and vocalized what I wanted to do and where I wanted to grow. Advocating for myself led to a desirable opportunity that I may not have had the chance to explore otherwise.

“Lastly, don’t let the phrase ‘not now’ discourage you. We’ve all heard a version of this during our careers. If it’s not the right time for a project, role, or promotion, continue to see around that door — and remember, there’s not just one door to enter. Understand that you have many opportunities throughout your career journey, and there’s more than one path to get you there.”

Women in finance should dedicate time to growth — even if it requires blocking your calendar

  • Marissa Herr, vice president, head of technology consulting at Fidelity Investments 

Herr leads a team focused on Fidelity’s core technology offerings and third-party integration capabilities, helping firms optimize their technology to grow and scale. Herr has more than 15 years of experience in the financial services industry, previously working for BNY Mellon | Pershing and Fiserv, among others.

“Earlier in my career, the FinTech company I worked for laid off 80% of its sales team — and I found myself unemployed. Looking back, it was the first opportunity I had since entering the workforce where I could pause, reflect, and think about which direction I wanted to take and what my next step should be.

“At this point in my life, networking was critical for me and my next career move. It can be uncomfortable to reach out to someone you don’t know and start to build your professional network. But one of my favorite quotes is: ‘Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ Step outside your comfort zone and connect with those in your industry who inspire you. 

“Make sure you carve out time in your week to network, learn, grow, and relax. Meet with a mentor (or give time as one yourself), keep a pulse on industry news, get outdoors, or spend time with loved ones. Create a calendar block so that your team knows your boundaries and these activities can stay distraction-free. The most productive people are the ones who can step away from their computers, fill their cups, and give back to those around them.”

Remember that failure is a critical ingredient of growth

  • Alicia Stone, senior business technology executive at KeyBank

As a senior business technology executive at KeyBank, Stone provides oversight and direction on the company’s strategic investments. Stone also develops the customer relationship management (CRM) roadmap, making sure that stakeholders and business partners are moving forward together.

“Failure builds character and teaches you so much. It can even define who you are. I was responsible for implementing new internal functionality on our corporate CRM. My role included ensuring the releases were successful and that we did not disrupt functionality. 

“After several successful releases, I failed — big time. The code my team released went to production and disrupted sales. The error was internal and no clients were impacted. Fields we needed were removed and we thought historical data was lost. 

“I took full responsibility and told my manager how the team was working to restore the functionality and the data. What I learned about myself after the failure was the biggest takeaway. My manager said, ‘I never had someone stand up for the team and take full responsibility for the error and accountability for the resolution. That says a lot about who you are and how you manage.’ 

“I could proactively apply lessons from my failure for the next release. You do not learn or think about these things when everything is going well. Lean into your failures and know that they impact the person and professional you want to be.”

What’s next?

There will never be a perfect time to take a risk or capitalize on an opportunity to stretch your career. Don’t hold yourself back. In fact, be your own advocate and invest in yourself. 

We all have something to share with the next generation. Whatever industry you’re in, give the gift of time, education, and advocacy to yourself — and others — to take your career to the next level and make an impactful difference.

Build a better future

Get inspired with our 2022 broadcast that featured inspiring and empowering gender equality Trailblazers across industries.

Michelle Feinstein GM/VP, Global Wealth & Asset Management Solutions & Strategy - Industries

Michelle Feinstein is general manager and vice president, Global Wealth & Asset Management Solutions & Strategy for Salesforce Industries. Her expertise is in digital transformation for wealth management. This process of digitization is complex, it requires firms to accelerate plans to harness data, digitize advisor-client experiences, and modernize service to scale and support growth.

More by Michelle

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