Why It Is Crucial For Young Women In Finance To Have A Mentor

Why It Is Crucial For Young Women In Finance To Have A Mentor

Bryant University campus. Courtesy photo

Having a mentor is the ultimate game-changer for young women in the world of finance, says Bryant University‘s Mara Derderian.

Derderian has been a lecturer at the Rhode Island school’s College of Business since 2009. She attended Bryant as an undergrad before getting her MBA from Bentley University in Massachusetts, then spent more than a decade combined as a vice president at HSBC and Citibank.

Derderian says it’s important that women and other underrepresented groups are guided by those who have paved the way — particularly in finance, where women have historically been a minority not only in the workforce but in higher education, too (though their numbers are gradually increasing).

“I think that regardless of which group you’re looking at, when you have an underrepresented group as a whole, mentorship is even more important and even more hard to find,” she says.


The U.S. population is 50.4% female, yet women account for less than 10% of senior roles at venture and private equity firms. According to ADP, women in the banking and finance sectors are paid $13 less per hour than their male counterparts, and it takes them 1.2 years longer to be promoted.

To be effective and sustainable, Derderian says, mentorship programs must have some formality to them. “If they are too rigid and strict, you lose the opportunity for organic relationships to form too, so it’s about finding that balance,” she says.

Why It Is Crucial For Young Women In Finance To Have A Mentor

Mara Derderian: Giving young women advice about careers in finance “helps me evaluate myself”

That’s why  she’s helped to spearhead an innovative new mentorship program at Bryant — one that is multi-layered, with dedicated alumni who actively support incoming generations of female students in finance.

“We have networking opportunities, events on campus, events in neighboring cities, and in smaller settings to meet the alumni,” she tells Poets&Quants.

The program is centered around mobilizing Bryant students to teach financial curricula to local high school organizations, groups like Invest In Girls and Girls Who Invest. This, she says, not only benefits Bryant students by showcasing the rewards of mentoring early on — it also aligns with the program’s aspiration for current women in finance at Bryant to become mentors to future generations, bringing the mentorship cycle full-circle.

“In my upper-level finance course, there are maybe two women to 25 men,” Derderian said. “Networking is the name of the game. It’s incredibly intimidating as a young woman starting out in a male-dominated industry, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.”


Bryant is now introducing a four-day finance retreat, helmed by Derderian, that will support her junior and senior students who are taking finance classes.

“Two days will be on campus, and two days will be in New York City,” she says. “For the two days on campus, we’ll have keynote speakers, campus tours, and an opportunity to meet the professors. High school women have been invited to join us as well.”

During their time in New York, they’ll visit Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, and the New York Stock Exchange, along with a “tea around town” tour. The itinerary also includes a leadership seminar with multiple women — one at Black Rock, and others covering personal brand development, networking, and self-care essentials like how to maintain proper exercise, nutrition, and sleep.


Derderian wants to facilitate women’s success holistically rather than just in one targeted area. “I’m looking at the full picture to set these women up for success, not just academic success in their careers,” she says.

What motivates her is seeing how eager to succeed the young women are who she works with.

“They are so motivated and so professional. I enjoy the relationship building aspect. It warms my heart.”

Derderian says the mentor/mentee process isn’t just about teaching: It’s about learning and growing together.

“That is an added benefit when it comes to having mentor/mentee relationships. Giving these women advice helps me evaluate myself,” she says.


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