What Is It Like to Be a Woman on Wall Street?

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By Alexa Abbott, BBA ‘17

New York gave me chills—literally. And it wasn’t just the brisk, cold winter air that cut my face with every step. I just visited some of the most important banks on Wall Street with 24 of my fellow female Ross BBA students, and it gave me goose bumps.

Alexa during the Och Initiative trip to NYC.

The trip was part of the new Och Initiative for Women in Finance here at Ross, and from exploring global markets at J.P. Morgan, to equity research at Morgan Stanley, I truly began to understand more about corporate America, and what it’s like to be a woman in this powerful industry.

We are always told that being a woman is no longer a constraint on our success, but there are certain things that being a woman in finance means, and visiting these banks really helped illuminate this for me.

So I thought I’d share some of what I learned.

At Goldman Sachs, we networked with women who expressed how crucial it is that, as women, we continue to push, develop, and improve ourselves throughout every stage of life. Especially while working in finance.

They stressed the importance of having humility and modesty, and as the day went on, I found that these traits, while crucial for the industry as a whole, seemed to be even more critical for women working in teams, where we can often be a minority. I learned at Goldman that it’s important to have a strong presence, but it is almost equally as important to show that we are willing to fail fast and learn from our mistakes.

At Barclays, the women we met told us we had to have a “tough skin” if we wanted to thrive in the industry. I think that oftentimes, women are inherently seen as more sensitive individuals, so I found this piece of advice to be one of the most important of the day. She further revealed that understanding who we are as women will be crucial once we get into corporate America.

We heard lots about the importance of being detail oriented, efficient, meticulous, and staying up to date on current events, but I found something one of the panelists at Citi Bank said to be the most moving.

There are four “C’s” to success, we heard. But the one that resonated most with me was confidence. The one thing I noticed with each woman we networked and chatted with was that regardless of age, race, or background, she had incredible confidence. Each woman showed tremendous strength of will in her own way, and I found it refreshing and inspiring.

Ultimately, I think confidence is what enables women to find success in finance. It’s what I’m going to strive for, at least. And I hope it will propel even more women forward in the industry.


Alexa Abbott is a sophomore in the Michigan Ross BBA program. She is expected to graduate in May of 2017.

Learn more about the Och Initiative for Women in Finance