Isenberg Women in Finance Society sparks interest on campus

The new group on campus already has 75 members


(Collegian file photo)

By Abigail Charpentier, News Editor

Last spring when junior finance major Colleen Collins entered her Finance 304 class, she noticed she was the only woman out of 30 students. She thought it was strange, since it was an introduction-level class. When Collins joined the Investment Club and the Minuteman Fixed Income Fund, she noticed once again the lack of women involved. After pointing this out to Finance304’s professor Mila Getmansky Sherman, they decided to work together to try and build a strong community for the few women that were interested in the subject. The result: The Isenberg Women in Finance Society.

The Society is open to all students at the University of Massachusetts and aims to build confidence while educating members, even those with minimal investment knowledge. Through weekly meetings and events, the Society will cover various topics, including potential professional careers, networking and personal investment, as well as provide workshops on technical and soft skills.

Collins also wants to create clear leaders and role models for younger students who may be interested in finance.

“I remember as a freshman going to WIB [Women in Business] and there were no leaders in WIB that were in finance. And as a younger girl in high school and now college… you look at a senior and think, ‘I wanna be like that girl,’” Collins said, explaining how even today she still feels this way when networking with older women in the industry.

Abigail Varney, a freshman finance major and founding member of the Society, came to UMass as a math major, but soon switched to finance.

“I realized that there was this whole other aspect – you combine [math] with kind of your social side and how you interact with people, and that brings you into finance,” Varney said. “So I think a lot of women are scared to break down that barrier of being social, kind of putting ourselves into a male dominated major and be that presence in a room.”

Explaining one of the main goals of the Women in Finance Society, Varney said, “We want to give women the confidence in these meetings to go into a room and say, ‘you know, what, I know these skills and what all the guys are talking about, I can participate in the conversation, I can be in an interview, I know what those terms mean, let me connect those in front of you.’”

Taylor Odell, a finance and economics senior and founding member, explained that when she came to UMass four years ago, there were barely any women on the finance track, and most of them ended up in accounting or operations and information management.

“Finance is only 23 percent women enrolled whereas accounting is 50/50 and OIM is 40/60,” Odell said.

The organization was designed over the summer and took off in the fall semester. They reached out to the Isenberg Women in Business as well as the various funds on campus and began to draw in students. In its first semester, the Society had around 75 members, with 25 to 35 of those members actively participating in events.

This semester, members will have to join one of the Society’s committees; high school outreach, networking trip planning or marketing and outreach. Members will also be matched up with a mentor – a UMass alum whom they can build a close relationship with.

Along with Collins, Varney and Odell, the founding team and executive board includes finance junior Evelyn Yanyuk and finance and economics junior Isabella. Professor Sanjay Nawalkha and lecturer Jeffrey Clark are also advisors to the organization along with Sherman.

The Isenberg Women in Finance Society recently was given the stamp of approval for becoming a new chapter of the Smart Women Securities, a non-profit organization that helps educate young women about investing and the financial market.

SWS was established in 2007 at Harvard University and shares a similar goal to create a welcoming environment where women with any level of investment knowledge feel comfortable learning and asking questions. The UMass chapter hopes to network with other chapters at Harvard, Duke University, Cornell University and a handful of others close to UMass.

The Society currently welcomes everyone who is “enthusiastic, driven, a team player, professional and organized.” However, next semester when they become an official chapter of SWS, there will be restrictions in order to meet the national standards, so Collins encourages people to join this semester before there is a more-formal process required to join.

“Finance and investing education is something that you need, no matter what industry you’re in. [The Women in Finance Society is] open and welcome to everyone,” said Collins.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.