August 20, 2015 — You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s that simple.
When I was in college, my father fell into a coma, suddenly leaving my mother to manage our family's finances alone. Lacking experience in this area, Mom was completely overwhelmed. I watched her struggle to find an advisor she could trust. I decided then and there to focus my life on building a place on Wall Street that could help women like her.
My Wall Street career had very unlikely beginnings. I moved to New York from the Midwest without a job, professional background, or connections in finance. I had no clue what getting a job on the Street would truly entail. I just had a mission, one that drives me to this day.
With the help of many mentors, a dozen years later I founded LexION Capital, a firm uniquely focused on the financial needs of women. The guidance of mentors was and still is critical to my success.
I have always sought to pay that karmic debt forward. I’ve written and spoken extensively about the importance of women in finance mentoring other women.
So I’m often asked: how do I decide who to mentor?
This may surprise you, but I don’t mentor the women who ask for one simple reason: they don’t need me.
Women who are assertive and decisive enough to approach me and ask me to mentor them are the ones who already embody the best of what I could hope to impart to them—boldness, vision, and confidence.
The women I do mentor remind me of a much younger version of myself, a woman who would be unrecognizable to most people who know me today. I started out as a temp, making coffee and photocopies and trying earnestly to get a job on Wall Street. My career priorities included a desperate need to be liked. I focused on being “nice.” I was unable to speak up and assert myself.
The women I mentor are the ones who nervously shift eye contact during a conversation, who seem too frozen to respond to my now-confident “Hello!” These women are often administrative assistants. They may be brilliant, but they don’t yet recognize their brightest gifts. They have so much potential, but they don’t know where or how to aim.
That was me, long before I earned an MBA and founded a finance firm. But it’s much more than that. I get so much out of knowing them and giving them guidance on their journey. They remind me that doing what I do is a gift—and a duty. Supporting women in finance should be the next rallying cry, a natural parallel to supporting women in STEM. We have the unique opportunity, and the responsibility, to transform Wall Street and bring it back to Main Street for the next generation of women and men. That’s why I have a dozen wonderful mentees: because I know we can’t be what we can’t see.