Smart Women in Finance (SWIF), like many other student clubs at Bryant, has been challenged during the pandemic. But members are using these times as an opportunity to build collaborations with other finance clubs on campus through a project in impact investing.
Through the online lending platform Kiva, the students are focusing on microfinancing, in which small loans made to individuals around the world have a big impact on people’s livelihoods and quality of life.
Through Kiva, the students have funded projects in agriculture, food, education and clothing, lending money to a range of causes – from families whose children need money for uniforms to attend school to housing improvement projects. After the pandemic started, the students also supported health care for the COVID-19 response in the U.S. and internationally.
“There's so many areas of finance where I could take my finance degree, and SWIF showed me the ways that I could do that.”
The wide world of finance
The Kiva project is one of many ways in which the club seeks to expose members to the wide range of disciplines and career pathways available in the finance field.
SWIF aims to increase the involvement of women and minority students interested in finance by offering informative, hands-on academic and social experiences related to the industry.
Generally, this is done by inviting guest speakers, typically alumnae in the finance industry, to visit the weekly club meetings. Panel discussions and networking events, through which members obtain career advice and build professional connections in their fields of interest, round out the activities. New experiential field trips are in the works when it is safe to travel again.
“Support for women students who are interested in pursuing careers in finance or financial services is considered a top priority and initiative within the Finance Department at Bryant.”
Being a women’s club “adds that familiarity factor” for female students, says club President Kaitlin Dickey '21, a Finance major. “If you’re comfortable, you’re more inclined to put yourself out there—to stand up, ask questions, and just further your education and take the reins on your academic experience,” said Dickey.
“That's why students come to Bryant—to further their education and really harness what they came here to do," she continued. SWIF offers members "a comfortable environment to do so, which I think is really great,” said Dickey. “That's one of the reasons why I started going to SWIF meetings.”
SWIF, said Dickey, helped her find a career path in financial services. “There's so many areas of finance where I could take my finance degree, and SWIF showed me the ways that I could do that,” said Dickey. “I like financial services because it’s client-based. It gives you that personal aspect of finance. I want to have a purpose as a finance professional, and I want to be a caring one.”
“I’m a CFP®, so my ethic is to help people make that connection. I ask my students ‘Who are you? What are your values? What do you want to practice in this world?’”
Through SWIF, she’s seen the benefits of the powerful network that comes with the club. Membership and retention has stayed high due to the opportunities presented to the members, she notes. Guest speakers often introduce students to hiring mangers within the speakers' companies, with students gaining internships and job offers from these connections. (One student interned virtually for an impact investing organization in South Africa thanks to an alumni connection.)
Mentorship and support
Members find that mentoring is available and readily offered through the club, whether it’s from professors, guest speakers, alumnae, or even fellow club members. Dickey cited her own mentor, Maura Ann Dowling, CFP®, Lecturer of Finance, as her go-to person to ask "What do I do next?" Dowling, who sponsored the student founders in creating the club in 2016, is a Certified Financial Planner who has many years of experience working in Wall Street firms.
Dowling’s style of mentorship is to approach students as individuals. “I’m a CFP®, so my ethic is to help people make that connection. I ask my students ‘Who are you? What are your values? What do you want to practice in this world?’”
As a mentor to SWIF, she encourages women to be themselves. In addition, she helps further socially responsible investing and focusing on community.
Dowling notes that all professors in the Finance Department embrace mentorship, and adds that "support for women students who are interested in pursuing careers in finance or financial services is considered a top priority and initiative within the Finance Department at Bryant."