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Smart Woman Securities (SWS) was started by two 2007 Harvard College graduates, Tracy Britt and Teresa Hsiao. Along with their Founding Team at Harvard, Teresa and Tracy publicly launched SWS in fall 2006.
Although a few investment organizations existed on Harvard's campus, the SWS founding team saw that most organizations did not focus on education from the introductory level, but rather catered to students who had already been investing for years. Many women we spoke to expressed their unease at joining these groups, due to a lack of financial knowledge. These investment clubs often seemed intimidating for someone who just wanted to learn.
a need on campus
A History concentrator who was a then-junior at Harvard told us, "I was really excited to hear about SWS, because I have always been interested in investing but felt that the opportunities at Harvard were probably over my head. I'm interested in investing because when I'm older, I want to be a financially independent woman. I think our generation is on the cutting edge of a fundamental change in women's economic awareness....I'd like to see self-made women topping the Forbes. I do believe that it's possible to balance personal success, family life, financial freedom, and all the other pressures there are on women. I want to learn to invest so that my money can work for me and bear part of that load."
We heard similar stories from other women who wanted to learn about investing, whether it be for personal reasons or as part of professional goals. Some wanted to emulate their mothers, their female role models who had become the breadwinner in their families. Some wanted to be able to hold conversations with their brothers and dads in finance. Some had struggled through financial hardships in the past and wanted to learn about investing for their future. Some just simply wanted to learn something new.
the "right time" to start learning about investing
Thus, SWS was formed to create an opportunity for women to learn more about investing in the financial markets. We believe that targeting college women is the key to promoting investment education for women everywhere. As Smith College Professor Mahnaz Mahdavi commented, "College is the right time for people to start thinking about this. It's the first time the majority of people become independent, move away from home. Even if their parents are giving them money, they're the ones who have to manage it." ("What Advisors Should Know About Women Investors", Securities Data Publishing, Jan. 2004 )
Furthermore, by targeting women, SWS seeks to reverse the trend of women who lack sufficient knowledge about investing and the financial markets. Research has shown that even though the majority of women would have to manage their own finances at some point in the future, most women do not feel comfortable investing. Women tend, overall, to be less confident in investing than men.
However, SWS found that even though women have less knowledge, women are increasingly interested in learning about investing. Women also often feel more comfortable doing so in a collective setting, learning with their peers.
the SWS model
Thus, SWS' curriculum was formed to focus on collective, dynamic learning through group lectures, breakout sessions, and team projects. Furthermore, having practical experience was an integral component to SWS' educational model. By giving women an opportunity to manage an investment portfolio while in college (an experience they otherwise might not have), SWS was taking down that barrier of fear and intimidation that had previously deterred women from investing.
SWS officially launched on campus at Harvard in Fall 2006, and has been rapidly expanding ever since.
Some of our accomplishments have included coordinating a trip to visit Mr. Warren Buffett in Omaha Nebraska, hosting a conference at Harvard with over 150 students, and garnering the participation of senior executives from several financial firms and partners.
The goal of SWS is not only to educate its members, but also to build a community where women can learn and feel comfortable with managing their finances. Today, SWS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with plans to expand to other campuses. We are excited to continue to move to other schools, improve our programs, and offer greater resources to women everywhere. If you are interested in the SWS mission, we encourage you to get involved!
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