Female financiers take the lead
By Julie Riddle '92
Over the past few years, business students and faculty members noticed a perplexing pattern during many team stock pitches for the Whitworth Student Investment Group. Female team members would deliver a welcome and provide an industry overview, and then their male counterparts would present the complex stock analysis.
"These females were among Whitworth's very best students" says Dawn Keig, associate professor of strategic management, "but they felt they were lacking in confidence around their nimbleness in working with some of the technical skills."
Gracie Pfau '21, an investment group member and business administration major, also observed that in her classes male students were more likely than females to raise their hand to ask or answer questions. "We usually let other people go first," says Pfau, pictured at left.
Pfau and other upper-division business students decided to address these issues by creating Women in Finance, a chartered club that seeks to build sustainable confidence through competence. "At its heart, WIF is women teaching women in a supportive environment," says Keig, the club's faculty advisor.
With a grant from the Whitworth Women's Leadership Network, club officers built a reusable curriculum that they began teaching in a weekly class. Each unit includes basic and advanced levels, providing challenging material for all participants.
Last fall, students from a variety of majors learned how to read a 10-K annual report, with units delving into each of the report's financial statements. "The most important piece we wanted them to take away is how these are all interconnected," says Pfau, the president of WIF. "The younger students are really eager to learn, and this is like a jump-start to the upper-division classes."
For spring 2021, WIF moved from a classroom to a computer lab, where the students collaborated with Assistant Professor of Math & Computer Science Qian Mao to learn Python, a programming language that is used for business analytics. "The financial and technical worlds are starting to merge," Pfau says, "and it looks really good on your résumé if you know how to code."
Pfau will soon begin her career in the finance industry, where gender inequality prevails, particularly in senior roles. But she has developed the skills and the confidence to excel. She wants the same for the members of WIF. "With resources and knowledge, they'll be on a similar playing field to the guys," she says, "and hopefully that'll get them to raise their hand."