For many years, HTG Investment Advisors has hosted summer interns. This year, we had the opportunity to host and mentor Shaindy Weiss, a rising senior at Baruch College, placed with us through LiveGirl’s SHE WORKS internship program. Shaindy was born and raised in an orthodox community in Brooklyn. Influenced by a number of women leaders, she was inspired to break with the community’s traditional path and go to college. She is interested in finance and law and plans to attend law school after finishing college. Shaindy’s 10-week experience with HTG was completely virtual given the Covid environment. During her time with us, she diligently worked on several investment and planning-related projects. Below she shares some reflections on her path to HTG and research she conducted while here.
“Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women, who have her back.”
– Renae Daniel, Media Sales Executive at Gladstone News
I grew up unaware of my inner leader. I had the seeds, but I had no garden. I had the brains but no education. I had the questions but not the answers.
I grew up in an insular orthodox community where women do not have many professional opportunities. At the age of 18, I was to marry a boy and raise a family. But my inner warrior rebelled. I had discovered my desire to learn and acquire knowledge, as well as my talent for writing. Subsequently, I started my journey towards discovering my inner woman, which led me to develop my capacity for self-knowledge. My first step was to surround myself with other strong women who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Luckily, I did not have to search too far, for Debbie found me before I found myself.
As my grandmother’s friend and confidant, Debbie took a special interest in me. As a successful mom, lawyer, and businesswoman, she knew the tools I needed to cultivate my potential. I remember the day she came to my house and read my poems. When she finished reading them, she said, “you’re going to college.” I looked at her in disbelief. I knew that people go to college, but I did not think that I would be one of them.
I had a strong desire to germinate my seeds of success and womanhood. I was eager to learn about different cultures and societies. Additionally, I looked forward to studying subjects such as calculus, finance, and law. With Debbie’s support and guidance, I started college in 2017.
During my junior year in college, I connected with Johanna Rossi, a female trailblazer on Wall Street. She mentored me and introduced me to the SHE WORKS program with LiveGirl. SHE WORKS equips diverse, young women with career-readiness skills and connects them with internships at companies that demonstrate female leadership. I was excited to learn about female leadership and the women who care about my personal and professional development. Once I was admitted to the program, I was placed to work with HTG Investment Advisors in New Canaan, Connecticut.
At HTG, I met a team that made me feel at home. I admired the high percentage of female representation at HTG, where women comprise 80% of its financial advisors. The advisors that I worked with valued my work and gave me enough time to finish my projects. Throughout my internship, I acquired valuable tools and resources which contributed to my personal and professional development.
As part of my internship, I researched and created a comprehensive summary of sustainable and ESG-focused investments by leading investment management firms. ESG-focused funds incorporate environmental, social, and governance factors into their investment process. During my research, I came across investment opportunities that focused on women leadership, gender diversity, and inclusion.
I was inspired by Nicole Connolly, head of ESG investing at Fidelity. She explains that data reveal that “companies that had above-average female representation in their management team and had diversity policies in place—like child care, a flexible work environment, and return-to-work programs—those female-forward companies outperformed the market over the past ten years” (Fidelity Investments). As the head of the Women Leadership Fund at Fidelity, Connolly considers a company committed to gender diversity if it is committed to promoting women.
Many factors contribute to a fund’s commitment to gender diversity. For example, Fidelity’s Women Leadership fund considers a gender-diverse board of directors if at least 33% of the board are female directors. In contrast, BMO’s Women in Leadership fund feels a 25% representation of women on the board of directors is minimally acceptable. Other contributing factors include a female CEO or exceptional gender diversity initiatives.
Although our society’s work towards gender diversity and female inclusion is far from perfect, I believe gender-lens investing and women-leadership-focused funds can significantly improve our social responsibility and investment philosophies. “A growing body of research shows how greater gender diversity in companies leads to long-term value creation, stability, and even greater returns. At the same time, ignoring women as consumers, a group responsible for 70-80 percent of consumer decisions, means missing out on one-third of the world’s private wealth” (Thim). Additionally, it is valuable to incorporate gender-related issues throughout the investment process and ensure gender-equal investment teams. Furthermore, gender-lens investing and female inclusion can help companies avoid “potential reputational or legal risks related to issues such as discrimination, sexual violence, and harassment” (Thim). Hence, many aspects of gender diversity and female inclusion contribute to a company’s success and reputation.
While I think about the different aspects of female leadership and representation, I feel compelled to highlight the power of female mentorship. If not for Debbie believing in me, I may not have gone to college. If not for Johanna’s mentorship and guidance, I may not have participated in this year’s SHE WORKS Summer Program. As women, we must seek out other women for sustenance, growth, and mentorship. If we support one another, we will achieve far greater success than a lone individual.
Although I am still in the process of finding my inner leader, I am stronger than I have ever been. I trust that I will continue to grow and flourish under the mentorship and guidance of fellow women. And to keep the progress going, I will plant a seed in the gardens of other women for every woman who planted a seed in the garden of my inner leader.