Symposium: ‘Women control a significant amount of wealth’

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Financial management and the power of women in leadership were the focus of the 16th annual Women's Philanthropy Board Spring Symposium held Monday at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.

Cathy Saunders, head of Registered Investment Advisory Business for Putnam Investments in Boston, presented a compelling case for the importance of women, who now own the majority of personal wealth in the U.S., becoming savvy investors.

“Women control a significant amount of wealth," Saunders said.

While women have made steady gains closing the pay gap in the workplace and have emerged as leaders in every other area, they need to show leadership in their financial lives as well.

“Don't listen to your neighbor when you are investing your money," she said.

Saunders said women must make their money work for them because they live longer than men.

“If we don't get our money to grow fast, we won't get our money to last," she said.

Brie Williams, vice president and head of practice management at State Street Global Advisors in Boston, also spoke at the event.

She was responsible for implementing the “Fearless Girl" bronze sculpture depicting a young girl facing the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street. Commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, it was installed the day before International Women's Day last year, with the aim of creating global awareness of the importance of gender diversity in business leadership.

Williams said the iconic “Fearless Girl" was really about the women in attendance at the symposium.

“What this is about is really a representation of you," she said. “Be your best self. Carry out your own destiny."

Diversity in business leadership is not only about doing what's right, Williams said. It's good business. Companies with strong female leadership at the top see a 36 percent return on equity.

The movement to encourage women in leadership positions has gone beyond the “Fearless Girl" sculpture. A challenge was issued to more than 700 companies that had no female representation on their boards of directors. More than 100 have since added women.

“A movement was created because of what you — because of what she — represents," she said.

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