This is a special and personal post, dedicated to the hundreds of women professionals on Wall Street whom I've had the privilege to meet over the years.
Yesterday at the NYSE, the Financial Women's Association of New York rang the closing bell for the first time ever (see video clip below).
The FWA (of which I am a board member) is no young "chick." It's been around for 52 years and has been helping women on Wall Street and elsewhere meet and learn from one another for several generations now.
The FWA was started by eight feisty women who worked on Wall Street in the '50s and wanted to network. They tried to join the Young Men's Investment Association but were turned away. As FWA President Lily Klebanoff Blake likes to say, "The FWA is still around, but that men's club is not."
The FWA holds a series of events each year, exposing its 1,000 or so members to important business leaders and issues. It's also there as a resource for members who are looking to advance their careers within the industry and beyond, such as into the non profit world.
But perhaps one of the best things it does is give back. FWA members for more than 20 years have been mentoring students at Murry Bergtraum High School in New York, one of the longest ongoing partnerships in the city school system.
FWA members also mentor students at Baruch Collegeand work with Wall Street interns in a summer mentoring program. Last year, the FWA provided $255,000 in scholarship funds to students from the mentoring programs. Plus, it provided another $30,000 to MBA students in New York City graduate business schools.
Every one of the students I've ever met from the programs believe they are better off for their association with the FWA, but the women who mentor them would say they are the ones who are rewarded when they see these students succeed.
Tonight, the FWA holds its annual dinner, where it will honor two women whose achievements are an inspiration in the corporate and non-profit world. The honorees are Christine Poon, Vice Chairman and Worldwide Chairman of the Pharmaceuticals Group at Johnson and Johnson, and Evelyn Lauder, Senior Vice President of the Estee Lauder Cos, who is being honored for her work as founder and chairman of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
In the video, Blake rings the bell and Executive Director Nancy Sellar, former FWA President Joan Shapiro Green and incoming President Kristin McDonough are among the crowd on the platform. Special thanks to Jyoti Bhagavan, who made it happen.