by Monika Mitchell
Despite the fact that women hold up half the sky, we continue to be under-represented in the financial markets. Having worked in the institutional debt markets for over a decade, I observed the percentage of women in senior management was in the single digits and remains that way. In the wake of the financial crisis, the few women that operated at higher levels were, more often than not, the first to go.
Women just aren’t welcome in the Old Boy’s Club. Perhaps this is simply a result of the resistance to change or perhaps because women themselves don’t want to be there. To be a woman in the competitive macho world of investment banking often means you have to check your femininity at the door. For women on the climb up to Wall Street prominence, if you want to play with the Big Boys, your best bet is to become one of them.
Yet a new world is emerging rapidly for women in finance, the world of impact entrepreneurship and investing: How to generate profits and make the world a better place. It is a world wide open for invention and perfectly suited to the feminine gender. Where else can women use their natural intelligence and problem solving skills and apply these to environmental and social issues for profit? The newness of clean tech and renewable energy yields an innovative market opportunity for women. Nowhere is that represented better than at this week’s Wall Street Green Summit in New York. Global Change Associates under the direction of Clean Tech investment guru Peter Fusaro presents fourteen women who are setting the trends in the green economy.
Clean tech expert Karin Berardo, a structured finance specialist, will talk about financing solar energy. Karin is the Chief Financial Officer and co-founder of CleanPath Ventures, a firm that finances renewable energy projects in the U.S. and around the globe. Leslie Durshinger, a former JPMorgan and Merrill Lynch executive, with 20 years of experience in derivative trading, investment advisory, algorithmic trading, risk management, and securities lending presents the new trends in carbon off-set markets. In 2006, she founded Terra Global Capital to “facilitate the market for land-based carbon offsets.” Discussing sustainable commercial real estate and green building is Leanne Tobias, founder and managing principal of Malachite LLC, a LEED specialist and investment advisor. Nancy Tuor, executive director of CH2M HILL, reveals how to build effective sustainable leadership in today’s economy. Asset manager Cheri Warren, VP of National Grid, details the nuts and bolts of executing smart grid initiatives. These are just a few of the amazing and innovative women at the Summit.
One of the highlights of the Summit occurs on Day Two with a Women’s Mentorship Luncheon presented by social entrepreneur extraordinaire, Diana Ayton-Schenker. The purpose of the luncheon is to develop a mentorship network supporting women’s economic and social impact in the world. As founder of Fast Forward Fund and Global Momenta, Diana focuses on “accountability and impact through strategic philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and private-nonprofit partnerships.” Fast Forward was recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative University as an “outstanding commitment” of “youth investing in youth for global change.” In addition to her advisory roles, Diana teaches social entrepreneurship at The New School and corporate social responsibility at Bard College. She is also advising the recently launched WINWin Initiative, a project of the Calvert Foundation of Women Investing in Women.
Wall Green Summit promises to be a comprehensive two-day conference with dozens of important sessions presented by women and men on: Renewable Energy Finance, Carbon Trading, Green Hedge Fund Strategy and New Green Investment Opportunities. Not to leave the guys out, other participants include Mission-Markets Founder Michael Van Patton, representatives from Pepsico, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, top green hedge funds and Wall Street green maverick, Fusaro himself.
The green economy is growing rapidly. The 21st century promises to be the era of making money through improving the world around us. Happily, women will be front and center in that global economic movement.