Like so many women on Wall Street — or those who aspire to work here — I see myself in the bronze Fearless Girl statue unveiled on International Women’s Day on March 8.
The girl faces the iconic Charging Bull statue in a stance that says, “I belong here.” Originally meant to highlight the importance of women on corporate boards, the statue also has come to symbolize the need for women to be represented on Wall Street in general.
As I said, I see myself in that girl, especially since I was blessed to land a job after graduation as a investment banking analyst at a major investment bank. I am grateful to be living my dream.
But I wouldn't be completely truthful if I said I’ve always shared the Fearless Girl’s confidence.
Even though I grew up as the daughter of two parents who worked in finance, I wasn't always sure this was the field for me, especially as a woman.
And to be even more honest, if it wasn't for my education at Mendoza, I probably wouldn't have even considered a Wall Street job as a possibility. But Mendoza equipped me with the necessary knowledge of finance and the tools to start my finance career.
Mendoza also helped me develop the confidence it takes to work on Wall Street. One opportunity in particular helped prepare me for my career was representing Notre Dame in the 2017 Undergraduate Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) at the University of North Carolina. The competition gives students a chance to act as venture capitalists and assess investment opportunities.
I’m proud to say the VCIC judges chose our team as the best of more than 70 teams from around the world. And this was the first time Notre Dame had ever entered the contest.
Our road to the championship started with the Venture Fundamentals, a challenging non-credit course through the Notre Dame Institute for Global Investing. The course met one night a week and helped us understand the nature of venture capital, the process of fundraising and valuation, and, most important, the different perspectives that VCs and entrepreneurs employ to approach startup ideas.
I couldn't believe how much I learned from that class, and I was honored that the instructor, Kevin Burke, chose me for the VCIC team. As the only woman on the five-member team, I was self-conscious at first. But our team was bent on winning, and I overcame any hesitancy I felt at first. I made sure my voice was heard and my ideas were considered.
Looking back, I do believe that some of my sensibilities as a woman contributed to our team’s victory. I noticed and paid more attention to the personalities of the entrepreneurs presenting at the competition and was sensitive to their backgrounds and motivations. I’m confident that my perspective as a woman gave our team strengths that it might not have had otherwise — strengths that helped us win the competition.
And I know the knowledge and confidence I gained from the course and competition definitely gave me the confidence to pursue and land a job at Barclays.
I am only months into my finance career. It is, of course, exhilarating and terrifying. I’m still learning about my job and my corporation and about the world of Wall Street in general, a world that isn’t always friendly or welcoming to women.
But I plan to hang in here. I have a great finance foundation, a network of Notre Dame women on Wall Street who support me, a solid company that invests in my success.
Like the Fearless Girl, I’ll face challenges. But I know I belong here.
Lavinia Li is a class of 2017 finance major.