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Venture Spotlight: Grace Baghdadi co-founder of Females for Finance

Grace Baghdadi is a Global Affairs and Economics major at Yale currently undertaking a year of PPE at Oxford, she is also the co-founder of Females for Finance, a non-profit organisation that looks to bridge the gender gap in the finance industry. Grace spoke to us about the work she has been doing and how you can get involved.

“Females for Finance is a non-profit organisation that looks to bridge the inequalities in finance. We offer free education to high school girls who might be interested in finding out more about the financial industry. It is often too late by the time girls are in college or university for them to decide to go into finance as they’ve already started to specialise in another subject. The recruitment timeline has also shifted up quite a bit so now, you need to know within your first year in university if you want to go into Investment Banking, for instance.

Educating girls about finance

This all started for me last March when I had to start the recruitment process for a summer internship this year. I jumped quite late on the finance bandwagon, since I had had no exposure to finance back in high school, but was lucky that I had a female mentor in finance who helped me to practice and gain confidence. What a career in finance would involve is so opaque that it’s easy to assume it would be really hard to even gain an internship as a woman, but I did. I’ll be interning as an Investment Banking Summer Analyst at Morgan Stanley in New York City this summer. It was a similar story for my co-founder Anisha and we thought if we can do it any girl can.

Finance is a very male dominated industry and girls are not encouraged to become interested in subjects like maths and economics, subjects which could lead to a career in the financial industry. But we hope to change that by equipping girls earlier on with the knowledge they need to be ready to start a career in finance.

Enterprising Oxford has been a great resource since arriving at Oxford in September. I was looking to get involved with the entrepreneurial community and it has been the gateway to so many opportunities to develop Females for Finance. In November, Females for Finance was selected as one of the start-ups to participate in the #StartedinOxford Demoday and we pitched. Thanks to Enterprising Oxford, I was able to make many new connections and forge new partnerships for our non-profit.

Last autumn, we launched our F^3 Level 1 Online Program with over 100 girls from across the world participating. We have three main areas that we focus on: education, mentoring and networking. We’re not aiming to replace school but supplement it. We held bi-weekly online classes on topics as straightforward as budgeting to the stock market and investing, all at introductory level. We also held weekly discussions to encourage networking and mentorship. It was a great success and we are set to begin our Winter 2021 Level 1 Online Program in mid-February. We also are in the process of expanding our course offerings and are currently developing level two and three programmes.

Girls that apply need to have an interest and curiosity to learn. They’re hardworking and willing to learn the basic foundational knowledge. We’re explaining how to budget and invest and what the finance industry is all about, offering topics that are not offered in schools. There are plenty of other companies that offer paid-for classes but this is a barrier to entry that we’ve removed. We’re the only free platform by college women, for high school girls to learn about finance.

Thriving in a male dominated industry

I’m used to balancing a lot, at Yale I am on the varsity fencing team, the MUN Team, and am on the Executive board of the Yale Student Athlete Advisory Council, amongst many other extracurriculars. That’s what it’s like to go to college in the US. With the pandemic and the cancellation of sports, in Oxford Females for Finance is my main focus outside of classes, so I’ve found it quite easy to balance. We’ve started recruiting team members to grow our organisation. At the moment it’s mostly Yale women but I’m keen to involve Oxford women as well as we continue to branch out more globally. It’s designed to be very scalable. We want university chapters all over the world so that women could be paired with local girls in the area, and after the pandemic I’d like to be able to bring the girls to campus and give teachers the opportunity to build relationships in person. We also just launched over 20 high school chapters that serve to recruit girls for our programs and also equip the applicants with basic knowledge before applying. Our ambassadors will be teaching younger girls and help us in our recruitment efforts. We want to instil this culture of “paying it forward.”

This summer I’ll be going to Wall Street for my internship but I’m not worried about being in a male dominated world. I have a lot of experience in male dominated environments as I played a lot of sports growing up. When I was very young I lived in France and I used to play football with the boys’ team. It’s something that’s fine while you’re younger but when you get a bit older, boys tend to underestimate you. Suddenly you’re 12 years old and the boys are saying you’re not as good as them. It taught me to develop a thick skin and to go for what I wanted even if it feels difficult. It’s one of the reasons I joined the fencing team, it’s one of the only sports where women compete against men on the same playing field. I feel equipped to face the Wolves of Wall Street.”

If you’re interested in getting involved as a mentor, teacher, or just finding out more about Females for Finance visit the organisation’s website: https://www.femalesforfinance.com/  or email director@femalesforfinance.com with any questions.