On a Wednesday morning in September, twenty high school girls gathered in the auditorium of Hiawatha Collegiate High School before the school day started.
From the front of the room, their teacher asked: “How many of you know what a financial advisor is?”
No one raised their hand.
“Well, that’s exactly why these women are here.”
Those women are employees at RBC Wealth Management – U.S., this year’s Twin Cities sponsor of Rock the Street, Wall Street (RTSWS), a nonprofit organization that provides financial literacy education to high school girls.
Led by Kristen Kimmell, RBC Wealth Management’s Head of Advisor Recruiting & Field Marketing, RBC volunteers Teresa Alewine, Darla Kashian, Jackie Larson, Stacie Nabedrick and Evelyn Rhines committed to spending one hour a week for five weeks with the Hiawatha students, teaching them the basics of investing and budgeting. But their commitment extends beyond teaching basic financial concepts. As volunteers, each woman is serving as a role model and providing valuable insight into what a career in finance might look like.
Kristen Kimmell (left), Darla Kashian (center) and Jackie Larson (right) with Hiawatha Collegiate High School’s 2019 Rock the Street, Wall Street participants.
Although women account for just over half of the U.S. population, they represent only 15.7 percent of financial advisors nationwide, according to a 2017 report by Cerulli Associates. The rate of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses taken by girls/women decreases at the undergraduate level and gender disparities begin to emerge, especially for minority women.
Because of this lack of female representation in the industry, it can be difficult for young girls to picture themselves pursuing careers in finance, especially when they lack female role models in the real world.
That’s where the RBC Wealth Management volunteers come in. Throughout the five-week RTSWS program, the students, who are juniors and seniors in high school, have met with the volunteers to learn positive money management habits and the basics of budgeting. Simultaneously, the girls have seen the real-world application of the math content they learn in the classroom.
“I think it’s important for everyone to understand finances at some level,” Kimmell says. “In schools we teach how to take care of an egg for a week, but that’s not applicable to all students. Everyone has to pay rent and figure out a personal budget. Exposing students – especially girls – so they have the confidence they need to manage their personal finances, and allowing them to see themselves in the faces of incredible people like these volunteers is crucial.”
A Rock the Street, Wall Street classroom session
In addition to money management skills and budgeting, the students have also learned basic financial terms and concepts, conducted business case studies, learned about the capital markets and practiced buying stock.
“What many people don’t know is that being a financial advisor actually has very little to do with math,” says Kashian, a financial advisor at RBC Wealth Management. “Yes, you have be able to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but what’s more important is being able to communicate, build relationships and sell ideas.”
At the end of the course in November, the girls will take a field trip to RBC Wealth Management’s downtown Minneapolis headquarters to tour the firm, meet with executives, and listen to a panel discussion at the 2019 Women’s Association of Financial Advisors (WAFA) conference.
Hiawatha Collegiate High School senior Kimaria Brown
Since the launch of RTSWS in 2013, more than 1,750 girls across 17 U.S. cities have gone through the program, with 69 percent of participants coming from communities of color and 44 percent coming from low-income households. Girls who have gone through the RTSWS program are four times more likely than the national average to pursue college degrees in finance, economics or a related field.
Kimaria Brown, a senior at Hiawatha and a RTSWS participant, says she was most excited to learn how to budget and manage money before she heads off to college in the fall. “Last week we learned about saving for retirement and investing. I’m excited because these are skills that I will need for the future.”
Investment and insurance products offered through RBC Wealth Management are not insured by the FDIC or any other federal government agency, are not deposits or other obligations of, or guaranteed by, a bank or any bank affiliate, and are subject to investment risks, including possible loss of the principal amount invested.