Vice Chairman - Global Markets, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
New York City, NY
With all the strides women have made in the field of finance, I am still often the only woman in the room. My whole life has been like that. But here’s a secret, when I don’t focus on it, the smart men in the room don’t either.
I was asked by a colleague recently if there was anything I would change about my career. I must admit, the question gave me pause and provided me an opportunity to think about my career and the trajectory it’s taken.
Anyone who knows me will say that I am very determined. When I put my mind to something, I don’t take “no” for an answer. This tends to work for me, but can become challenging when pursuing a goal that has been traditionally considered better suited for our male counterparts. Growing up, I was the only girl with two older brothers and a father who never saw gender as an issue. So, consequently, neither did I. It just made me work harder when I was faced with someone like a teacher who did not think I could do well in subjects like math and science (he also told my parents I would never succeed if I pursued a career in math or science). Problem was, I was good in those subjects and I liked them – even though many times I was one of the only girls in the class. I guess you could say that was one of my early “Lean In” moments.
Another was after the birth of my first child. Less than 12 months after getting a PhD in Astrophysics, I was working on Wall Street, got married and had a baby. My world was already flipped on its head when we were told my newborn son had a fatal medical problem. I shut down and made the decision to resign. My boss at Goldman sat me down and told me to take whatever time I needed for my family. If I found out I couldn’t handle it, then I could quit. I was floored and had not even thought of that as a possibility.
I did it. I let go and leaned back for one day a week. I consolidated all of my son’s appointments into that one day and it worked. After a year of tests, we found out my son had been misdiagnosed and was OK. A year earlier I would not have hesitated about resuming my schedule, but that was not where I was in my life. I treasured having that one day where I was just a mom – not a worker or a wife – those were things I did the other four days and on the weekends – just 100% my son’s mom. It was challenging, but it worked for me and my family and I would not change that time for anything.
I have been very lucky – at the right place at the right time – during some of the most revolutionary times in the financial market. Having flexibility allowed me to keep my foot in the door in a very significant way both personally and professionally.
Which brings me to the present. With all the strides women have made in the field of finance, I am still often the only woman in the room. My whole life has been like that. But here’s a secret, when I don’t focus on it, the smart men in the room don’t either. So in closing, what do you think my answer was to if I would change anything in my career? Absolutely not.
Emily Nemens on why she leaned into a job at The Southern Review
Emily Nemens: Why I Leaned Into a Job at The Southern Review
Writer & Editor
Cheryl L. Hyman on the journey from high school dropout to chancellor of Chicago's community colleges.
Cheryl L. Hyman
City College Chancellor