Virginia Giuffre is well aware that women are a rarity in finance. During her 21-year career as a financial adviser operating within Merrill Lynch, she’s actively sought to recruit women financial advisers to expand her practice. The problem? They’re very hard to find.
“The industry is underserved – probably only 12 to 13 percent of the industry is women,” she said.
Women need to support each other and encourage girls to break into male-dominated professions, said Giuffre, founder of the Giuffre James Fisher Group. Gaining stronger representation in those areas is no simple matter, but women helping women is a necessary step.
This is a special passion for Giuffre. Among other leadership roles, she has chaired the Connecticut chapter of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), and served as board member, member of the executive committee and fund development chair for the Girl Scouts of Connecticut.
Building confidence and entrepreneurial skill starts early, she said – that’s why the Girl Scouts is such an important organization. Because the girls in scouting develop superb leadership skills, they become our future executives, senators and hopefully, president, she said.
Mary Barneby, CEO of Girl Scouts of Connecticut, first met Giuffre a decade ago when she joined the board of the IWF. She was impressed by what she saw.
“Virginia ably led a group of high-performing women leaders from throughout the state,” Barneby said. Her dedication to her financial adviser clients was apparent, too.
“While she serves a diverse client base, Virginia has always been a real champion for the financial empowerment of women,” Barneby said.
Despite some progress over the past couple decades, many women still relegate their personal financial management to the men in their lives. And this is where the lack of women financial advisers can be a problem – male advisors often talk down to their women clients, Giuffre said. Her office focuses instead on educating women, helping them understand the investment markets and form a financial plan for themselves.
For her part, Giuffre embarked on her profession because she simply loved finance. She worked at Citibank for 22 years, running a major division, spending most of her time traveling overseas.
She emphasizes the importance of taking charge of one’s own financial future, and says it’s been a rewarding career for her.
“I love to be able to figure out how to help people – primarily women – succeed in today’s world and ensure they have enough money to live their lives,” she said.