Women’s Leadership in Finance

Yesterday, I joined Secretary Geithner and Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios at the Treasury Department, where we attended the Administration’s second Women in Finance Symposium. I spoke to women in leadership positions at some of our country’s largest financial institutions.

Since 2008, we’ve seen a remarkable rise in the number of women who have taken on influential positions in finance. The Obama Administration is encouraged by this cultural shift. The attendees of yesterday’s symposium are judged first and foremost not by their gender, but by their performance – and that’s exactly as it should be.

At the same time, President Obama believes that women’s leadership is not only a women’s issue. Several studies have shown that when more perspectives are represented at the highest levels, organizations perform better. When a woman succeeds, it ultimately benefits her entire institution.

Just as importantly, the women I met yesterday are role models for the next generation. Right now, there are young women entering finance who are wondering how much they can achieve. The leaders who joined us at this symposium demonstrate the bright future that is possible.

There were other, equally important ways that the women I spoke to yesterday help strengthen our country. Many of them represented institutional investors such as pension funds, university endowments, and foundations. Countless Americans depend on these investors, from public employees who rely on their pensions and students who rely on financial aid, to firms seeking capital and non-profits seeking grants.

Many of these major investors are taking advantage of opportunities to invest in clean energy, healthcare, telecommunications, bioscience, and infrastructure – all top priorities for our economy, and for the Obama Administration. This helps us win the future, and it puts Americans back to work.

This was a crucial element of our symposium. As last week’s jobs report reminded us, finding work is still too difficult for far too many of our citizens. The private sector has added more than 2.2 million jobs in the last 16 months alone, and more than 1 million jobs this year. But we lost 8 million jobs during the worst months of the recession, so we certainly have a long way to go.

President Obama is committed to helping us get there faster, and he believes that by listening to those who create American jobs, we can better find solutions to the problems we face.

By providing opportunities to network, learn, and share best practices, we move towards the day when the American financial system reflects the diversity of America itself, we help Americans find jobs, and we lay the foundation for a prosperous future.

For more on our work on behalf of America’s Women and Girls, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/cwg.

Valerie B. Jarrett is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.

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