New Ross Initiative To Empower Women

Women are not winning in representation in the e-suite.

Women are not winning in representation in the e-suite.

It is no secret. It has been a topic of discussion in the media for a while now. Women are underrepresented and underpaid in the world of finance. According to 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women actually make up about 55% of financial managers and 62% of accountants and auditors.

The bad news is the same data reveals women make up about 33% of financial analysts. Women represent about 28% of personal financial advisors. The really bad news is the data revolving around executive leadership. According to the 2013 Catalyst Census information, women make up about 18% of upper management in Fortune 500 companies in the finance industry. The same number represents how many are board members at Fortune 500 companies in finance. Just 11% of CFOs at Fortune 500 companies are women.

There is a lot of talk about the problem. But what (if anything) is happening to even out the overwhelming amount of Y-chromosomes in the e-suite? Some are suggesting exposing women to careers and women executives in finance as soon as possible. This is precisely what the University of Michigan Ross School of Business is doing with its soon-to-be-implemented Och Initiative for Women in Finance.


Lynn Wooten, associate dean of undergraduate studies at Ross.

Lynn Wooten, associate dean of undergraduate studies at Ross.

Ross announced the funding received from the Jane and Daniel Och Family Foundation in August but the initiative targeted towards undergraduate women is becoming a reality in the form of an all day workshop and visit and speech from Morgan Stanley’s Carla Harris on October 22. The underlying goal of the initiative is to build awareness and encouragement for women pursuing careers in finance.

“The main goal of the initiative is exposure,” says Lynn Wooten, associate dean of undergraduate studies at Ross. “Second, it is empowerment. We want to begin to think about and discuss what it looks like to train women to break through the glass ceiling.”


The initiative will transcend the Michigan campus to local high schools. A consortium of high schools in southeast Michigan are working with Ross by inviting representatives to present at their schools and connecting them to Ross once attending the University of Michigan.

The initiative will continue to include workshops and trainings led by professors and alumni throughout the semester. A mentoring network is also being established between alumni and current students.

“We are in exploratory mode,” Wooten says. “This will be an initiative we continue to develop each semester.”


Wooten said a series of workshops and speakers is planned for the spring semester that will include representatives from J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs. The initiative will also provide new coursework and action-based learning projects in addition to the exposure Ross students will have to women in finance careers. Wooten added that while this initiative was not modeled off other schools, she has already heard from multiple schools asking about the structure of the Och Initiative.

If a change is going to be made in women represented in the e-suite at Fortune 500 companies, more programs creating awareness and empowerment for young women interested in finance is essential. Ross might be at the forefront of this movement.


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