As the daughter of an immigrant from the Philippines, Brianna Tonnesen was never taught the importance of girls pursuing business or data-oriented fields until her older sister broke from their family’s traditional career path to study human resources.
“It’s kind of typical in Filipino culture for, like, the women of the household, if they have a job, to just be like a nurse,” said Tonnesen, a junior finance major. “I didn’t really grow up seeing like, a bunch of the women in my family, like in leadership roles, and like, you know, stuff that you’d see like in finance.”
In August, Tonnesen and Lauren Morrison, a junior finance major, began mentoring women at Temple University interested in pursuing careers in finance through their work as campus ambassadors for Girls Who Invest, a non-profit dedicated to increasing the number of women in portfolio management and executive leadership in the asset management industry.
Although Tonnesen’s parents did not push her to pursue finance, Morrison grew up learning about data and the stock market from her father, who works in finance and encouraged her to pursue this path, but warned that she may face challenges like being the only woman at her future office. However, this only made her more determined to enter the field, Morrison said.
“I wanted to overcome that obstacle and be a woman in finance,” Morrison said. “And then, you know, be a part of the path that helped pave the way for more women to get involved in finance.”
Women occupy only 20 percent of executive committee roles, 22 percent of board positions and 12 percent of the chief executive officer roles at large U.S. financial firms, according to the Harvard Business Review.
Tonnesen and Morrison interned at GWI from June to August 2021, where they learned about the fundamentals of finance, self-advocating, building connections and developing confidence in the work they produce, Tonnesen said. At the end of the internship, the two applied to become the first GWI student ambassadors at Temple.
As an ambassador, Tonnesen hopes to expose women at Temple to new possibilities in hopes of diversifying the field, much like her sister did for her, she said.
At age 10, Tonnesen often went to work with her older sister, who was the first woman of her family that did not pursue a career in nursing or medicine, Tonnesen said. Seeing her sister work in a non-hospital environment intrigued and inspired Tonnesen to stray from her family’s traditional path.
“She’s like a huge reason that I was exposed to business,” Tonnesen said. “Maybe not finance specifically, but she definitely like led me into the path.”
One way Morrison and Tonnesen have encouraged other women to pursue finance is by speaking to classes and professional student organizations at the Fox School of Business.
Outside of GWI, Tonnesen and Morrison are part of Owl Fund, a Fox program that provides students in finance with real-world experience managing capital and following markets, according to their website.
Through their time with Owl Fund, they’ve learned about bringing women into the finance industry from Cindy Axelrod, associate professor of finance and deputy finance department chair.
Axelrod knows how intimidating entering a more male-dominated major or field can be and encourages women, like Tonneson and Morrison, to enter the field, as she feels many women do not have role models pushing them to pursue this path, she said.
“I’ve been in their shoes,” Axelrod said. “Where you’ve been the only female in the room and you wanted to literally melt into the wallpaper if you could, because you felt that the guys were so much better at it than you are.”
Morrison has also felt similarly to Axelrod and hopes to work with other women at the university to build up their confidence in the classroom and in the workplace, she said
“We’ll continue to help other women get involved in finance stuff so, just like, we create this whole, like nice cycle at Temple, where we just have like women helping women,” Morrison said.