Emmy Holliday is interested in finance or accounting as possible majors when she gets to college, “but I don’t know a whole lot about them.”
“Most people are like, ‘Oh, that’s a lot of math,’ but I like doing math,” explained Holliday, a senior at Chattanooga Christian School.
To learn more, she signed up for Empower Your Future, a forum held on Feb. 8 at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and organized by the Gary W. Rollins College of Business.
Held in person for the first time since 2019, Empower Your Future was attended by more than 100 female students from 13 high schools, including the Howard School, Cleveland High School, Ivy Academy and Marion County High School. One of the goals was to highlight the many careers available to someone with a degree in finance or economics.
Perhaps more importantly, the forum was held to correct the perception that such careers are essentially a males-only club.
“We have noticed for years that there’s a huge gender imbalance in the field of finances, and we think it is, in our role as the Department of Finance and Economics, to understand why it is that fewer women study in these areas and to promote the discipline among them,” said Dr. Bento Lobo, head of the department.
“What we have learned is: It’s not a skills gap; it’s not a capability gap; it’s often about not seeing people like them in those roles.”
To address that misconception, the forum had a panel of women working in finance and economics:
- Michell Bosch, treasurer for the city of Nashville and Davidson County
- Casey Galanti, founder of Galanti Accounting in Chattanooga
- Isabella Loza Ortiz, senior investment analyst at Unum in Chattanooga
Dr. Leonora Brown, UC Foundation associate professor of economics in the College of Business, led the panel.
“One of the big misconceptions that is out there about economics is that, ‘Oh, it requires this strong mathematical background.’ No, it really requires curiosity. I got in this field because I was curious,” Brown told the audience.
Ortiz, who earned two degrees from UTC—a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2016 and a master’s degree in business administration in 2019—said a career in economics is more than helping others. It also can help you, she said.
“The money that you’re getting from whatever profession you decide to pursue, what are you doing with it?” she said. “Regardless of what I wanted to do after college, I thought just knowing what to do with money and how to manage it was very important.”
As treasurer for Nashville and Davidson County, Bosch said she’s “very highly involved in making large decisions that affect our economy, that affect our community, that affect our taxpayers and all the citizens in Nashville and Davidson County. And that’s really, really rewarding to me.”
“Helping people in communities can be done in a myriad of ways, and I feel that economics is sort of the mother language to understand how the world works,” Bosch said.
Seeing successful women in economics and finance can give the high school students at Empower Your Future a leg up if they decide they want to pursue a career in either, Lobo said.
“By the time people come to college, it is almost too late,” he said. “So we are trying to go further back in time and speak to high school students and put very successful female role models in front of them who studied finance and economics, so they can then understand: This is what you can do with a career in finance and economics.”
Holly Ware, a teacher in business management at Chattanooga Central High School, brought 38 students from freshmen to seniors to Empower Your Future. One of the goals was to “give them confidence to say, ‘Yes, I can go onto this pathway,’” she said.
While women have been treated differently in the business world for many years, those days are changing, Ware said. Seeing the panel of professional women at Empower Your Future was a way for her students to see the changes in person.
“I think this is a good way for them to see it in 2023.”