I can remember people's reaction in high school -- or, later, at college parties. The moment I mentioned my interest in math, most people would give me that look. You know, that look. It says: "She's a geek. She's a nerd. She's definitely not cool." But, ladies, don't let that deter you. Math is actually cool. Who knew?
I started my career on Wall Street more than 20 years ago. I was one of three women in a class of nearly 30 financial analysts at Smith Barney, an investment banking securities firm. Working with so few women was sometimes lonely. But I felt like I was blazing a new path for my gender in a field that was still dominated by men.
I was breaking barriers for women and girls everywhere. The hours were long and the environment was tough, to say the least. But the work was challenging, and I was fascinated by Wall Street. I learned all about how companies are valued by the public markets, how companies raise money with an offering of stock or debt and how stocks are traded by investors.
One of my first jobs was to build financial models in Excel (actually, I think it was Lotus 123 back then) to put a valuation target on companies for mergers or acquisitions. I loved the work. Who knew that a degree in numbers could lead to a career in investment banking -- and the best part was that finance and math were cool. I was a woman who worked on Wall Street, and that commanded respect.
After several years in banking, armed with an MBA that opened even more doors for me, I got a job offer from my favorite client, Pacific Bell, now AT&T. Today, I'm lucky enough to serve as AT&T's senior vice president of investor relations. I represent AT&T to the investment community, returning me nearly full circle to where I started my career. I talk to investors all over the world about AT&T and what they should consider if they're thinking about investing in us. AT&T is a company that I love to talk about, and investing is a language I understand.
Sadly, the glass ceiling in the finance and securities area hasn't really broken yet, even 20 years later. Of the 38 Wall Street analysts that report on AT&T's stock, there is only one woman today. (Women represent half of the employees in the Fortune 500 financial services companies but only one in eight executive officers is a woman. And we are still waiting for the first female CEO of a Wall Street bank.)
Like engineering, the securities, finance and accounting fields are still dominated by men, especially in the senior ranks. Unfortunately, too many young women don't pursue math or finance as careers options. They're intimidated -- or they're told it's just not cool. But they don't know what they're missing.
If you are considering a career in the securities or banking industry or even thinking about researching new areas of big data, math can open doors to any number of cool careers. People tried to tell me it wasn't cool, but math got me where I am today. I have a career that I love, and I am a wife and the mother of two girls. As an added benefit, I can promise you that I am the most popular mom on the block when it comes to math homework help for my girls and their friends.
Yes, math has also made me a "cool" mom.