• Blog
  • 3 Min Read
  • November 20, 2023

Shattering the Glass Ceiling: How Equal Opportunity Propelled My Career in Finance and Insurance

In the realm of finance and insurance, the path to success often involves a little luck and a lot of perseverance. My own journey as a woman is a testament to the transformative power of mentorship and opportunity, beginning in rural Iowa and eventually propelling me into the world of global finance and insurance.

From Rural Iowa to the World of Finance

I grew up in rural Iowa, a good student but a bit naïve about the world and what it offered me. After graduating from high school, my best friend and I decided to attend a nearby community college to study nursing. She, the daughter of a dairy farmer, was as ignorant as I was about our options and potential. Still, we graduated top of our RN class and decided we had the wherewithal to pursue bachelor’s degrees at the University of Iowa. She continued in nursing, but early on, I chose an Intro to Finance elective.

It was there that a kind and perceptive professor, Professor Sant, recognized my potential and encouraged me to explore the world of finance.  His words resonated with me — finance offered me a chance to stand out in a male-dominated field and avoid the demanding schedule of nurses who work holidays and weekends. This career path had never occurred to me, but in the next few years I received both my BBA and MBA with an emphasis in Finance.

An Opportunity to Climb the Corporate Ladder

At the young age of 24, I secured a position at Principal Life Insurance Company as a credit analyst, embarking on a journey that would take me around the world, lending money to companies in the food, media, and healthcare industries. This role not only broadened my horizons, but also allowed me to refine my skills and expertise, providing me with invaluable experiences that would shape my career trajectory. Executives at Principal walked the walk when it came to providing equal opportunity and instilling confidence in women. My ideas were welcomed, my enthusiasm encouraged, and my mistakes treated as learning opportunities. When I left 19 years later, I was ready to take on the unbelievable role of Chief Investment Officer at a local insurance company.

Recently, the glass ceiling shattered around me when I was elected an Independent Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines. Women still make up a minority of board seats worldwide (19.7%) and are much less likely to be chair (6.7%). Therefore, I have a responsibility to use this platform to uplift other women.

The Impact of Mentorship & Paying It Forward

Throughout my professional journey, I realized the pivotal role that mentors and supporters played in my success. Their guidance and encouragement inspired me to use my knowledge to give back to my community. For instance, I have served as an investment expert on the board of Iowa Public Employees Retirement System and on the investment board of the Des Moines Art Center. I also continue to empower other women in the fields of finance and insurance. Drawing from my own experiences, I am committed to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment, providing guidance and mentorship to aspiring professionals, and advocating for diversity and inclusivity within the industry.

There is nothing special about me. My journey from the farm to a respected figure in the finance and insurance industry exemplifies the transformative power of equal opportunity and mentorship. My story is a testament to the potential that can be unlocked when individuals are provided with the right support and opportunities. Through my experiences and advocacy, I am committed to paving the way for a more equitable and diverse environment, ensuring that future generations have access to many opportunities to learn and grow like I did. By championing equal opportunity and mentorship, we can create a finance and insurance industry that truly embraces and benefits from the diverse talents and perspectives of all individuals.

Click here to find more advice from women in the insurance space.