From left, Stacee Kratovil, Christine Opp, Laurie Bishop, Nicole Weynands, Niki Koubourlis, Lindsay Crossler, Kaycee Krebs.

Broadening Business Opportunities
Panelists discuss careers in fields where women are underrepresented

By Sue McMurray

Just as in many of the STEM fields, women are underrepresented in the fields of finance, entrepreneurship, and management information systems (FEM). To provide WSU’s students with information about the great career opportunities available in FEM fields, the Carson College of Business hosted a panel of seven successful women professionals to share their stories on taking charge of their own career success in various FEM sectors.

“Both male and female students in all disciplines benefited from hearing these impressive female leaders share stories of success and overcoming challenges,” said panel organizer David Whidbee, chair of the Department of Finance and Management Science and Omer L. Carey Chair in Financial Education.

Stacee Kratovil, (’11 Fin.), vice president, private wealth associate advisor for U.S. Bank and Certified Financial Planner™, acted as emcee and moderator.

Perspectives on being a woman in FEM fields

Certified Financial Planner™  Kaycee Krebs, (’07 Fin.) a lead advisor at Brighton Jones and the only female partner who is client-facing, said the only disadvantage she feels is the lack of women colleagues. “Only 23 percent of certified financial planners are women—there aren’t a lot out there,” she said. “But being a woman in finance will definitely be an advantage as the population changes; women will control 67 percent of the wealth in the United States by 2030.”

Krebs also said as a finance student, she learned to budget her own money, which empowered her to be in control of her own life and to relate to her future clients. She also sought out mentors who gave her important feedback and taught her to leverage intangible skills such as flexibility and leadership.

Leveraging skills

Understanding stereotypes is a key to overcoming them in the workplace. Christine Opp, a Chartered Financial Analyst® and certified Certified Financial Planner™, is a managing director at Freestone Capital Management. She has strategically used the societal perception that women excel as team players and are good active listeners to help build trust and understanding with her clients. “Money plays such a pivotal role in a client’s life, and as advisors, it’s our job to connect their story of money to their hopes and dreams,” she said. Because women look at things differently than men, they can often find unique and thoughtful solutions that resonate with their clients’ core issue rather than jumping to the first answer, she explained.

Kratovil asked entrepreneur Niki Koubourlis (’03 Rel. Est.) how her finance background prepared her to become an entrepreneur, and what skills she lacked for her current endeavors.

Koubourlis, founder and CEO of Bold Betties™, a company that empowers women through outdoor adventure, began her career as a financial analyst in the commercial real estate industry in Seattle. Her expertise included private equity, entertainment and technology industries, investments, valuation, modeling, and forecasting. “Being data driven and spending time in private equity was very valuable and will make pitching to venture capitalists easier,” she said. Koubourlis said she lacked marketing skills she needed to build her Bold Betties™ brand and didn’t have the right network. “Here’s a tip,” she said. “Build your network at every stage of your career.”

Paths to Success

Across the board, the panelists agreed education is the foundation of success. For women in FEM, common hard skills include computer science, math, engineering, and accounting, along with technical knowledge and industry-specific certifications and designations, such as Chartered Financial Analyst® and Certified Public Accountant. Equally important are soft skills such as leadership, team building, and listening that “don’t always come naturally but are key to creating and seizing career opportunities,” said Laurie Bishop, CPA and chief financial officer at Kennedy/Jenks Consultants.

“To be successful, accept challenges and push out of your comfort zone,” said Lindsay Crossler (’01 MIS), senior engineering manager at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. “Spend time on important projects to help make your company better, and listen to customers to determine their needs.”

“Half way through my engineering program in college, I realized software development wasn’t my cup of tea,” said Nicole Weynands (’01 Eng. & Arch.), project manager within the Communications & IT Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “I loved working on projects, coordinating teams, solving problems, and consulting.” Weynands minored in math which helped build her problem solving skills, and she actively practices motivational skills on the job. “Make sure people feel valued,” she said. “When you care about a team, they care about you and the company.”

While the panelists had diverse stories about finding their career paths, they collectively posed the following advice to women planning to enter FEM fields: keep an open mind about what you want to do. Find a mentor, and make time to be a mentor. Don’t be afraid to pursue further education. Strive to become self-aware. Do your best work.