On a sunny spring morning, the Garden Room at 58 Princes Gate was filled with excited chatter from future students of our Finance Master’s programmes at our Women in Finance Breakfast. These young and talented women are at the beginning of their career in finance, with the first step being an MSc at Imperial College Business School.

Guest speakers from BlackRock, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and a current student shared their wisdom on the industry and being a woman in finance today. It is a breakfast after all, and attendees settled into the event with some delicious food along with their morning tea and coffee.

Leila Guerra, our recently appointed Associate Dean, began the morning’s activities. In her opening remarks, Leila discussed the growing awareness around gender balance.

For the very first time, gender balance and gender equity are on everyone’s table. This is something that at Imperial College Business School we’ve been trying to empower and lead on for many, many years. But the momentum is right and for all of us in the room, it’s also a moment to reflect – what is it that we can do to lead on and contribute to this initiative?

She continued to discuss some of these initiatives, including the Women in Business Society, which builds a network of inspiring women College-wide. She also spoke about our MSc Finance achieving gender parity for the first time this year with 50% female students on the programme.

The guest speakers

The first guest speaker was Skye Macpherson, Director at BlackRock, with over 18 years of industry experience. Skye said she has never felt disadvantaged as a woman in her organisations, but she shared a couple of stories about external challenges she faced as a woman.

From when Skye began in the finance industry in 2000, she noticed a shift in how big companies recognise diversity. She said organisations are acknowledging that individuals from different backgrounds, including gender, cultural and educational, create a much better workplace, a positive takeaway for the female students beginning their career in this industry.

The second speaker, Sangeetha Veluru, is an Imperial College London graduate who is in her first year working in Rate Sales at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Having recently transitioned from university to the workplace, she shared invaluable advice about getting a job in the sector.

Sangeetha believes that choosing the company culture and boss is more important than fixating on an exact role. She told attendees that the transition from university to work is difficult and stressed the importance of having people in your organisation who will support you during this process.

In terms of being a woman in finance, Sangeetha urged the future MSc students to choose a workplace where men and women are treated equally.  She said:

I don’t like it when people push you just because you’re a woman as I feel like they think we need extra help. You don’t want your successes to be discounted because people thought you got treated easier because you are a woman. It’s important to find a team where that’s not even a question. The way I got treated at my workplace was very fair and all of my colleagues were treated the same.

Karen ErmelThe final speaker was Karen Ermel, a student on our MSc Investment & Wealth Management programme. Karen will be finishing her studies this year and has been offered a job at Coutts post-graduation.

Karen talked about the different elements of her Master’s which have helped her career progression, especially the Imperial College Business School Careers service. The support of her programme cohort was also very valuable to her and she urged future students to really leverage the networks Imperial offers.

She closed the speeches with a piece of advice:

Do not be afraid to make mistakes or admit that you don’t know something. We’re all here to learn and better ourselves. If you’re open about that, people see that you’re a genuine person and you’re here for the right reasons. That’s something that’s really valued here at Imperial and also the industry.

Following the inspiring speeches, prospective female students had the opportunity to meet some of the programme faculty and members of Admissions and Recruitment teams.

Our future students of the Finance Master’s programmes left the event inspired and to ready to become the new female leaders in finance.