In honor of Women’s History Month, Forefront spent March supporting women-owned businesses, organizing a clothing drive to benefit Dress for Success and highlighting our female clients who are, more importantly, impactful leaders in the fintech industry. To accomplish the latter, we asked these clients to share any pieces of advice that they have relied on in their careers, or some of the lessons they’ve learned along the way to impart on those who will follow in their footsteps.
The response was overwhelming. The insights listed below are the product of decades of experience spanning different segments of finance and technology. These clients have seen every angle of the industry – running tech companies from the C-suite, working with regulators, harnessing the newest innovations, bringing their firms from launch to leadership and so much more. The common thread: they achieved these things as part of an underrepresented group, serving as an inspiration to future generations of women in fintech in the process.
We’ve got so much to learn from their stories, so read the full remarks from all participants below!
Manisha Kimmel, Head of Business Integrations, Low Latency Group, LSEG
“When asked about being a woman in this industry, I share these three pieces of advice, as I’ve found these to be critical in my own success and that of the women around me.
1. Interview your companies just as actively as they interview you.
2. If you want to put career first, find a partner or paid help that will support you.
3. Understand your compensation and spend your time on what’s rewarded. Deprioritize the rest.”
Laine Litman, President, Hidden Road Partners
“I’ve been fortunate to have mentored and been mentored by supportive professionals for much of my career, and I’ve both received great advice and set some guidelines for myself. In honor of Women’s History Month, here are a few of my favorites.
Self-awareness will be your most valuable asset. Set your boundaries—and uphold them. Learn to prioritize, and be ruthless in prioritizing. When your back is against the wall, the answer isn’t always to work harder—generally it’s to change your approach. On that note, recognize what you can change and what you can’t. Accept what you cannot change, or decide what your limit is and move on, and understand the fluidity required to succeed. Embrace opportunities to reevaluate your opinions and decisions—that is growth. Don’t be scared to speak up! But don’t feel obligated to. Choose your spots.
Finally, remember that not everyone will like or support you, and that’s OK. Find your true supporters—male or female—and ask them to challenge you. Push you. Be direct with you. And once you are given the opportunity to support others, do it. Other women aren’t a threat. Be their hype woman. Support them. Elevate them.”
Mitra Roknabadi, Vice President, Global Head of Marketing, OpenFin
“One piece of advice that was once given to me which I would love to pass on to the next generation of women in Fin/Tech is ‘You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.’”
Melinda Joseph, Chief Marketing Officer, Sterling Trading Tech
“I am grateful to have been raised in a household that insisted women can do anything men can do. My best advice would be to build and exude confidence, do great work that you are proud of and be willing to listen and learn but also speak up when needed – you are your best advocate.
Always stand your ground and maintain your composure using emotional intelligence and your best judgement, you can only control your reaction to situations. Lastly, everyone brings value to the table by offering their own unique perspective and opinions, an important factor to any teams’ growth and success.”
Katie Mockler, Vice President of Marketing, Insurance Quantified
“No one is perfect – overly confident perhaps, but not perfect. And in fact, striving to be perfect can be a blocker to making progress. Give yourself some deadlines, invite others in to provide feedback if you are stuck and be open to trial and error. Then when (not if) you make a mistake, take the time to reflect, apply the learnings and move forward.”
Cynthia Sachs, Founding CEO and Board Member, Versana
“Being a leader is not about how smart you are – it’s about using your smarts strategically to bring trusted, talented people together to build a best-in-class team. When it comes to building workplace relationships, only surround yourself with individuals who lift you up and make you better. From there, everything else will follow.”
Alla Liberman, COO, Beacon
“In my long experience in male-dominated fields, I often see young women try to fit in by following the style of their male counterparts. My advice has always been – be yourself- your company hired you for who you are and for the different perspective or style you bring to them, not because they want you to be like everyone else. Related advice is not to be afraid to disagree. You can be wrong for many reasons, but everyone else being in agreement is not one of them! Finally, as a mother of three daughters, I always advise them to continuously learn, ask questions, work hard, and not be shy to ask for what they want in their career, compensation, or other goals.”
Mireille Adebiyi, Chief Marketing Officer, Regnology
“Advocating for women in tech feels antiquated but is unfortunately still needed today, particularly for B2B marketers, where stigma towards the function persists. Here are some learnings I have forged over time that I would have loved hearing in the early days of my career:
- Do not allow others’ biased perception of your value as a person or your professional worth to become a limiting factor of your potential.
- Isolate from negative noise but stay open to constructive criticism.
- Surround yourself with mentors or peers in your field or find resources to benchmark your skillset continuously.
I will also add what has been a driving force in my professional career: keeping the focus on continuous learning and development.
I am hopeful the time will come when diversity, equality, and inclusivity are fully leveraged as growth opportunities for Tech organizations and when competencies supersede any deprecated prejudices.”
Stephanie Minister, Managing Director, Connectivity Services at LiquidityBook
“Stay humble, stay hungry, and always stay positive. Take a breath when you need it. Exude self-confidence. Don’t apologize before asking a question or making a request, and don’t say things like, ‘maybe this is a bad idea, but…’ Speak up and own your voice! Take the word ‘just’ out of your correspondence, speeches, and discussions – ‘I just want to ask you a question,’ ‘I just want to get some time from you today’ – using the word ‘just’ is a power give-up. It diminishes your value and gives others your power. Only use the word ‘just’ when you ask for a piece of cake – ‘just a small piece please!’”
Each year, we learn more about how to best support women in this industry and beyond. From equality in retention to rate of promotion, wages and more, there are so many reasons why empowering women in the workplace is important, as was highlighted in a recent McKinsey report. While Women’s History Month is coming to a close, we remain committed to spotlighting efforts to make the capital markets and fintech space a more diverse, inclusive place where all voices can be heard.
From all of us at #TeamForefront, we’d like to extend our sincere gratitude to the women who offered their time and wisdom for this feature. We hope you had a happy Women’s History Month!