Each year, the Forté MBA Financial Services FAST Track Conference is an opportunity for incoming MBA women at Forté partner b-schools to learn about the finance industry, explore financial careers, connect with top firms, grow their network, and hear from women leaders. In 2021, the event was held virtually, with 190 women participating in the expert-led panels, recruiter roundtables, industry showcases, career expo, and more. During the "Voices From the Top" panel, four senior executives from top firms offered an inside perspective on the industry, including strategies for having both a successful finance career and a fulfilling personal life. The panel was moderated by Kathleen McQuiggan, Wealth Advisor & Invest in Women Advocate, Artemis Financial Advisors, and Forté Board of Directors member. The four panelists — who are all mothers — included: Carolyn Kee, Managing Director, Citi. Claire O’Connor, Managing Director, Barclays. Ira Penza, Managing Director, Wells Fargo Securities. Jing Wang, Principal, Center of Analytics & Insights, Vanguard. All four panelists spoke candidly about how they managed it all. Ira Penza, Wells Fargo Securities, said, "I don't like the expression 'work-life balance.' It's more 'work-life integration,' because we prioritize different things at different stages in our life." Do not plan your children around your career. Children should always be priority as far as when to start and build a family, because the biological clock ticks and doesn't stop. When Ira first started out, her career was her top priority, but that changed when she and her husband decided to have a family. She said, "I have a very supportive husband, so we divided our responsibilities at home and the responsibilities around our child." Ira shared some advice for MBA students who want to have children: "Do not plan your children around your career. Children should always be priority as far as when to start and build a family, because the biological clock ticks and doesn't stop." Take Things One Day at a Time Carolyn Kee, Citi, pointed out that while parenting is challenging, once you become a parent, you rise to the occasion. She said, "I found myself adjusting my time horizon and my planning... I managed to make it through some difficult times just by taking it one day at a time." She found that the rough periods were relatively short, because "one thing about kids is they grow up really fast." If it was my child's birthday, or there was a parent-teacher conference or a recital — something that was important — I found that I could always make time for it. As a parent, Carolyn is grateful for the support of her bosses and friends. She says, "I have to say, my work friends, particularly my women work friends have been incredible." Claire O’Connor, Barclays, has three kids, and she makes a point of blocking off time in her calendar to be there for them. "If it was my child's birthday, or there was a parent-teacher conference or a recital — something that was important — I found that I could always make time for it. I would put it on the calendar as soon as I knew about it," she said, "People will try to override your calendar, but at some point you have to remember that you’re actually in charge." Ask For the Support You Need At times, you may have trouble managing it all. When that happens, be willing to ask for help. Jing Wang, Vanguard, advised the women in the audience, "You want to be your own champion. Be confident in terms of your value and your position in your work, and talk to your manager or talk to people around you to find the support that you need." She recalled that when she felt anxious about something and worked up the courage to talk to her manager, "The solution was often quite simple." Jing also shared a piece of advice she received at the start of her career from a senior woman leader at her company: "You have to forgo this guilt, this drive for perfection, wanting to be the best mom and the best person at work. Sometimes, you just have to be comfortable with imperfection." Want to be a part of next year’s MBA Financial Services FAST Track Conference? Sign up for updates.