Message from the CEO - Are You a Woman of Action?

 Hello FinGym Family!

This past weekend I found myself watching Sex and the City 2 (I know what you’re thinking -- but there was nothing else on) and tuned in just at the moment where the four ladies got on stage for karaoke and sang I Am Woman by Helen Reddy. In all honesty, up until last week, I’ve always found this song cheesy, maybe because of the folksy quality to it. However, I found it on Spotify and now playing it regularly and I’m finding it empowering. Some of my favorite lines include:

I know too much to go back and pretend.

No one’s ever gonna keep me down again.

If I have to, I can face anything.

What’s hit me about listening to this song, though, is that it was written and performed in 1971 during the American feminist movement which was led by Gloria Steinem and other women activists. We’re now in the middle of another movement that started after the 2016 presidential election -- 45 years after this song first played. (If you think I’m going to get political, I promise I’m not. Keep reading). 

For me, it’s sad to think 45 years have passed and it doesn’t feel like women are in a dramatically better place; and I truly believe that we only have ourselves to blame. I think unfortunately, we have a history of not being women of action. If we took more action over the last four decades, we may have seen more dramatic changes. Songs like this are great to sing for karaoke, but how are we living them in our day to day lives? Marches are great for camaraderie, but what actions are we taking after we put the signs away?

And where are we in the workplace when it comes to helping other women along?

I started my professional career 18 years ago on a trading floor at Bank of America. There were 265 people on the floor and 15 of them were women. Who was my mentor at the time? My male boss, who hit on me but also helped me professionally.

I was later promoted as the youngest senior salesperson in my group and during my first client meeting, the client manager, a woman, said to the client, “Can you believe they stuck me with Buffy here?” A few weeks later, another female client manager, called my boss to complain about my lack of finesse in presenting. Of course I lacked finesse! I was 24 years old! Rather than make public comments or complain about me behind my back, these women could have mentored and coached me and I would have been loyal to them for life; but that’s clearly not what happened. Instead, my strength and growth came from my male manager (Bonus: this one didn’t hit on me). 

During my two years as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch, none of the senior female advisors ever spoke to me except casual conversations in passing. A few wouldn’t even say hi to me in the bathroom. And yet again, I found myself with nothing but male mentors.

I have raised $3,300,000 to build The Financial Gym, of this amount, only $450,000 or 14% of the funds I have raised have come from women; and it’s not for lack of speaking to women with access to capital.

You can read all of this and think, "maybe she’s just a woman that other women don’t like and that’s why she hasn’t had positive interactions with women in the past," which could be true, except that I now run a company with 23 employees and 22 of them are women.

Women are not taking our thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. and turning them into actions near enough as we should. We see it all the time at The Financial Gym. Men are better at taking the actions to get financially healthy, women take longer, we let other factors, mostly fear and shame, get in our way of taking the actions we need to get ahead.

My message on International Women’s Day is to become a woman of action. Or, if you are a man reading this, encourage the women around you to become women of action. Whatever you would complain about, take the complaint and become the agent for change:

I have never complained about the fact that I didn’t have women mentors in my career, instead I became a woman mentor. I didn’t complain about making less money, I asked for it. I didn’t complain about the lack of women financial advisors, I became one. I didn’t complain about the fact that there wasn’t a place to send people to get financially healthy, I built it.

When we take action to mentor and support other women, we are helping them rise up in their careers -- something especially important in male-dominated professions where the gender dynamics can shift as long as we stay there. When we take action and ask for the pay we deserve, we have more money and thus more power in our lives. When we take action and start companies, we’re changing the dynamic of founders who get funding. When we take action and praise a peer for a job well done, we’re removing jealousy and creating a positive work environment. When we take action, we bring the change we want.

Let’s take our thoughts and turn them into actions so that another 45 years does not go by and we’re wondering why not much has changed.

I am strong

(Strong)

I am invincible

(Invincible)

I am woman

Shannon McLay