Women in Finance: A student initiative that strives to bridge the gender gap in the finance industry

Monday, January 24, 2022
by Aanavi M., F21 SAF Communications and Media Associate

The School of Accounting and Finance (SAF) interviewed members of Waterloo's student initiative, Women in Finance (WIF), to learn more about the work they do, the services they offer, and the successful impact they have on students. SAF met with Queena and Puneet, the group’s co-heads, Momna and Caddie, branding executives, Claire, Ramneek and Sandra, communications executives, Megan, outreach executive, and Maryam, logistics executive.

A black-and-white photo of a group of female students having a meeting in a lounge

“Being in a male-dominated industry, women in finance often don’t have access to the same networks and resources that can help them succeed. WIF strives to provide opportunities that can motivate young women and support them in taking their careers to the next level in the world of finance.” - Momna, and Caddie, branding executives.

Q1. What is the Women In Finance initiative and why was it created?

Women in Finance (WIF) is a student-run initiative that strives to bridge the gender gap in the finance industry by inspiring, educating, and encouraging female students to capitalize on opportunities in finance. WIF aims to create a positive change in the finance industry through initiatives which include virtual networking events, industry panels, educational workshops, informative blog series, mentorship programs, and more.

Q2. How does WIF help students?

WIF helps students through the three pillars of our mission: inspiration, education, and encouragement. We strive to inspire students by hosting events where experienced women in finance share how they have overcome challenges and reached career milestones. We educate students through our Lunch and Learn series, where guest speakers share their stories and have a Q&A-style discussion. We also aim to educate through various marketing and branding initiatives including Fun Facts Friday, the My Journey to Finance blog series, and our WIF Monthly Highlights Newsletter. Finally, we encourage students by launching initiatives, like our four-month Mentorship Program, where ambitious female students interested in the finance industry are paired with successful Waterloo alumni or experienced upper-year students. By providing these opportunities, we hope to help students learn more about the industry and break into finance.

Q3. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced while running WIF?

The biggest challenge we have faced while running WIF was understanding how to best support students in our mission to bridge the gender gap in finance. Through our post-event surveys after our Lunch and Learn sessions, we realized that students are struggling with co-op placements. As a result, we introduced the ‘Ace the Interview’ series for the Fall term, which is a combination of resume critiques, mock interviews, and a recruiting workshop. We love receiving feedback from students as it helps us provide the best support and resources for their success!

Q4. Where do you want WIF to go next?

When it comes to the future of WIF, it ultimately comes down to building a network. As we work towards our mission to promote gender diversity in finance, we want to create a well-recognized brand of successful women in finance. By building strong relationships with external partners and getting more students involved with our initiatives, we will eventually increase the pipeline and help to bridge the gender gap in the industry. In the short term, we are finding ways to transition to a hybrid structure where we provide in-person and virtual opportunities for students as we start operating in a post-pandemic environment.

Q5. What has been the most inspiring story within WIF for you?

There are many inspiring stories we have seen and experienced over the last two years, but they all have one thing in common — getting to see the impact of WIF. After organizing WIF’s A Day in Capital Markets Virtual Conference back in February 2021, we asked students to fill out a survey where they shared their thoughts with the speakers. Reading the responses and sharing them with the volunteers was a very rewarding experience. We love hearing about the progress that students are making and being a part of their journey, and it’s a big factor in motivating us to keep working towards our goal.

Q6. Do you have any tips for women who want to go into the finance industry?

There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to break into the finance industry:

  • Articulate the reason for your interest in the field. Do this while interviewing, networking, or having coffee chats. It’s a good practice to conduct research into the space or company beforehand and to keep up to date with market news or specific stocks that you can discuss. This will help you be prepared and have strong questions that can make you stand out.
  • Networking is necessary! Don't be afraid to reach out to professionals to learn about their role or company. However, it's important to network intentionally — reaching out to others with a purpose.
  • Ask meaningful, specific, and thoughtful questions that need to be prepared for beforehand. They show your interest and passion for the field you want to work in.
  • Getting your resume and cover letters critiqued before interviews and even coffee chats is a good practice.
  • Participate in extracurricular activities. Finance competitions, clubs, conferences, or course electives are always good options to try to build your network and build the technical and soft skills needed for the industry.

Overall, be confident, be yourself, and be prepared!

Q7. In what ways can people get involved with WIF?

There are several opportunities for students to get involved, so we highly encourage everyone to follow us on social media to get the most up-to-date information on our initiatives:

​​​​​​​We also encourage anyone interested in getting involved to check out our website or contact us via email for more information.