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How more women can dominate Wall Street

Barbara Byrne, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking at BarclaysBarbara Byrne, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking at Barclays
Barbara Byrne, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking at BarclaysCourtesy of Barclays

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. This week we ask: “blank”? The following answer is by Barbara Byrne, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking at Barclays.

When I started as an energy client coverage investment banker at Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb in 1980, the personal computer had yet to be invented. Spread sheets were just that – large pads of lined paper and calculations were done in your head via “topside” analysis or one could be found furiously working an HP12C with a pencil and a large eraser nearby.

Today, 35 years later, I am still an investment banker, surprisingly at a legacy of the same firm at which I started – Barclays [Barclays bought the North American assets of Lehman out of bankruptcy]. Technology has radically changed – although I am not sure that a big eraser would not still be handy. And even as the geopolitical world has altered dramatically, the price of oil is again fueling volatility and uncertainty. Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. But there is always something new in the world of markets and finance as they synthesize economics, politics and technology. This is why I love working on Wall Street. I focus on providing clients – external and internal – effective and timely delivery of the best advice we have to offer on how to navigate markets and strategically position companies to grow. I continue to cover some energy clients, but my portfolio and platform has grown to include industries and companies I never imagined would exist as I sat there with my eraser in 1980.

I know there are not many women investment bankers – but there should be. Women are good at this business. Equally, if not more importantly, they are good for the business. So here are my three tips to all women who seek to thrive on Wall Street:

  1. Keep moving
    Seek opportunities, learn new things – be an expert (of the moment) on a topic. Speak up and say yes to assignments that scare you a bit. It will keep you on your toes and when you are on your toes you will not “get stuck in the service line.” Instead, you can move to the opportunities – adjust course and meet the challenge. It is at the point of controversy and conflict where innovation and creativity happen. Go there.
  2. Stay engaged
    Investment banking is a people business. Build networks – internal and external. Engage your clients, colleagues and competitors. Mentor and sponsor people in the business – pay special attention to youth: their lack of filters and ability to see the “old as new” may present the next big “what if” opportunity. Look people in the eye when you engage: that’s building a relationship. Build trusted relationships. Always stand tall; tell the truth; and stay confident.
  3. Laugh often
    People say and do the craziest things. Sometimes life is not fair. And it can feel that way especially if you are the minority on a team. Assume that offenses do not stem from malice, but rather from ambition. Use humor to build bridges and laugh. Laugh often – because in 100 years we will all be gone.