The seven-hour workshop “Financial Acumen for Women,” offered by St. Catherine University, “has really been an outcome of talking to employers,” according to Mary Jacobs, Director of the Center for Sales Innovation. “They told us the financial acumen for college grads is less than employers expect. We’ve added financial acumen modules into our sales classes for undergraduates. Last fall we offered a workshop for professional women who are out there working, interested in moving ahead. ”
Originally, Jacobs said, the financial acumen workshop was intended for sales professionals. “What we saw, based on our database of people who are registering, is a cross-section of women in business,” Jacobs said. “The VP of a corporation who runs a significant business unit at her company was in our workshop. She sat next to a young sales representative who’s been in her job two years. Both signed up knowing that this was an area of their jobs they wanted to be better at. Corporations don’t train or coach to financial skills once people are on-boarded, and there is a perception of a skills deficit that can impact careers,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said women’s perceived lack of financial acumen is partly based on the realities of young girls who don’t pursue opportunities in STEM fields. Too many girls and women sell themselves short about their ability to excel in careers in finance, technology or science. Low confidence in analytical competency is also partly women’s own perfectionism. “Women say they feel like a fraud some times in meetings when financial results are being discussed,” Jacobs said. On the other hand, men have told her that “men don’t understand the numbers, either, but we just wing it.”
The workshop opens with a TED video called “The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get.” The speaker, Susan Colantuono, notes that women tend to be coached on soft skills, like confidence and leadership, while men are taught the hard skills of the business. “And you wonder why John, sitting next to you, is getting the job offers,” Jacobs said.
In her own experience as a sales manager, Jacobs said, “My own sales staff were good sales people, but were not confident when they came to analyzing the numbers for contracts. They relied on analysts to tell them what to do.”
The financial acumen workshop includes how to read a profit and loss statement, analysis tools for sound decision-making, metrics for company health, financial information for setting company goals, and ethical principles for decision-making. “We just touch the surface in a seven-hour workshop, but if we can get them thinking differently, we know we’ve accomplished a lot,” Jacobs said. “It’s just feeling more comfortable, knowing how the numbers connect, communicating more clearly.”
The instructor pulls public information from participants’ companies for-profit and non-profit companies as a basis for discussion. “She is one of the best instructors I know,” Jacobs said. “She’s so good at understanding the room. She’ll pause if she sees there are questions, moving on once she’s confident everyone has grasped the material. I’m grateful to work with her.”