The Sisterhood Of Investing: How Women Inspire Each Other

Have you ever had a chance encounter with someone who shaped your financial future? A timely message or story shared about money can be the gift of a lifetime. Girls and women absorb either explicit or implicit financial messages from female role models and these messages help shape values and maybe even inform life paths.

Here are a few real-life stories from my travels:

Inspired By A Teacher

Vancouver-based Marilyn Arsenault is a former opera singer who is now “The Running Diva” and a competitive runner, mentor and coach. She proudly represented Canada at the national and international levels and took home championship titles on all surfaces: track, road and cross-country. Now in her 40s, Marilyn focuses on reshaping perceptions of what Master athletes can achieve.

“I grew up in Northern Ontario and money was not discussed at all. In fact, we were taught that it was impolite to discuss money. When I was a young teenager, I was simply told that it is time to earn some money. I got a summer job right away. My role model came a few years later in the form of my first voice teacher: She and her husband fostered me during my training to become an opera singer. She was very money-minded and had a huge influence on me. I knew I could ask her to help me. She would just say ‘you ought to do this’ and she physically walked me to the bank to set up an account, buy a savings bond and from there I built a small portfolio. It was great to have someone take an interest in me and show me what to do.”

Inspired By A Senior Professional

Kimberly Morris is the Chief HR & Services Manager of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in Zurich. She had previously been Head of Integrity & Compliance at FIFA, leading a team of lawyers engaged in various compliance initiatives in the international regulation of the football transfer market.

“When I first started working and earning significant amounts of money, I was drawn to a female mentor who was about 20 years my senior. She had a successful career and was financially independent. She shared with me her straightforward investing philosophy: “Each year, spend what you need in the first six months, and spend what you want in the last six months.” She explained that with this approach you really focused on the choices you made in spending your money in the first half of each year. I followed her advice and at the start of the year I focused on maximizing contributions to my retirement plan and saving to cover my annual lifestyle needs. In the final half, I was free to spend however I wanted to. This approach made me very aware of my discretionary spending. When it comes to my long-term investment portfolio, I rely on an advisor. My background is in law, not in choosing the best stock to buy.”

Inspired By A Presenter

Sandra Bourbon is an engineering physicist living in Stockholm who loves using data to prove her point. That is why she founded Framtidsfeministen (Future Feminist) where she invests in gender equal companies. Why? Gender equal companies are more innovative, take better decisions and have higher profits. Her stock portfolio has outperformed the Swedish stock market since May 2015.

“I felt motivated to get started investing after I saw an interesting woman speak at a Nordnet presentation in 2015. I realized that although I am a feminist, all of my money was sitting in a bank account earning only 1%! I decided to start investing in stuff that matters to me. I wanted to invest in a ‘gender equality’ fund but none existed at the time. So, I decided to pick my own stocks. There is a pro-bono organization in Sweden called AllBright and it lists all of the publicly traded companies based on gender equality. Out of the 282 companies listed, only 32 are gender equal. So I started investing in some of those stocks—the ones that a) pay dividends and b) have a business model that I understand and believe in. I select only established companies, no Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and I refine my investment philosophy continuously as I read and learn more.”

Inspired By A Network Of Women

Siobhan McCarthy is a film and web series producer in Vancouver. She is the co-creator of the comedy web series “Parked” which screened at numerous prestigious web festivals and was nominated for Best Comedy, Best Canadian Series, Best Actor and Outstanding Achievement in Comedy. McCarthy’s “Red Eye” was recently accepted into Cannes Short Film Corner.

“The number one priority for anyone should be financial independence. Most of the women in my circle in the film industry who are independent producers don’t usually have the ability to rely on home equity loans or the like. If I need to find gap financing or cash flow, I need to get creative. I have had to train my (female) banker to understand how my industry works and I meet with her quarterly to update her with my business plans. Smart women are shaping the future of the film industry by being transparent. Within my generation we are banding together—there are a lot more women trying to champion each other and share information—and we are helping the next generation become more educated and informed. When it comes to financing films, there is the union rate and the going rate and there is always some wiggle room around that. You need to do your due diligence to find out what the ‘real’ budget should be … what is the going rate? What has been funded before? Who can help you? My job is to find money and resources to make my content. This requires what I call the three Bs: begging, bartering, and borrowing. To make an independent film, it takes a team of independent contractors to get the job done. My network is my net worth.”

Inspired By A Random Woman In An Elevator

This one is mine. When I was 25 and a credit analyst I worked in the same building as a very well-dressed businesswoman. I was always curious as to where she worked…how could she afford to look so fabulous every single day? I finally summoned up the courage to ask her and she said “Xerox. Sales.” I knew nothing about sales but I was intrigued. I invited her for coffee and she helped me work out a strategy for snagging an interview with Xerox. Within six weeks, and after some gruelling panel interviews, I landed my exciting new job in sales and more than doubled my income within the first year.

Who inspired you, and what financial messages are you sending to the sisterhood?

Each of us has the power to influence another woman and maybe even motivate her to take actions with her money that will lead to a life of financial independence and freedom.

Barbara Stewart, CFA is one of the world’s leading researchers on women and finance, focusing on real life financial behaviours and providing global insights into how smart women think and communicate. Barbara is an advocate for women, for diversity, and for financial education. In addition to her Rich Thinking® research, Barbara uses her proprietary research skills to work as an Executive Interviewer on a project basis for global financial institutions seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their key stakeholders, both women and men. Barbara is a frequent interview guest on TV, radio and print, both financial and general interest. She is a contributor to the CFA Institute’s Enterprising Investor website. For more information about Barbara’s research, please see