Jacki Zehner is the first and youngest female trader to have been invited to partner at the global investment bank Goldman Sachs. Since leaving Goldman in 2002, Jacki has combined her finance background with her passion for advancing the role of women and girls as the CEO of Women Moving Millions, a non-profit organization that works to encourage women to make donations of $1 million or more to further the empowerment and advancement of women and girls. She is also the President of the Jacquelyn and Gregory Zehner Foundation.
What are the three most important characteristics of a woman leader?
I would say there is no difference, for me, for top qualities in a leader, period, man or woman, though it is hard to name just three. Hmm… Integrity/honesty, ability to inspire others/team-building skills, communication skills.
When do you feel at your best?
When I know that I am making a difference. When there is something I can do, or better yet, that whatever I am doing will have close to a great outcome.
What did you do in your first year after college?
I was hired right out of undergrad at the University of British Columbia to Goldman Sachs in NYC. My job was as a CMO analyst in mortgage finance. I loved working in a team and had great managers. That said, I could never explain what I did to my parents. They would just tell people I worked on “Wall Street.”
What does it mean to be a “successful” woman?
That is a big question, and I truly think it is different for everyone, but at the core it is being the best you can be at whatever you prioritize and/or value in your life. For me, it is important to have a career while being a great mother, wife, and friend. Success is feeling like I am doing well in all realms.
What challenges do you think women in finance face today?
Finance is a wonderful career, especially anything involving the markets. It is still very much a ‘boy’s club’ especially in roles involving the allocation of capital. Be prepared for it. It does not mean you cannot succeed or that you will not experience barriers, but the industry is still very male dominated. A while ago I helped author a paper on the barriers that face women advancing in the financial world and I think it is very relevant today. (National Council for Research on Women, “Women in Fund Management: A Road-Map to Critical Mass and Why It Matters”) Further, like many other fields financial roles often require long hours and travel. One of the most important decisions you can make as a woman, if you want a husband and children, is to marry someone who ‘gets it’ and is supportive of your and your career.
What was your biggest mistake?
I have to say I have made very good choices in my life, and been very blessed with incredible opportunities. I wish we had lived abroad with our two children for at least a year. The perfect age for that would have been when they were around 7 to 10. It would have been awesome to give them, and us, that life experience.
What do you do when you need a moment?
Usually I need a moment when I am very upset about something. I do tend to cry to just let it out. Now, because I work mainly from home, I take my two beautiful dogs for a walk. I live close to a trailhead and getting fresh air while watching how happy they are to just be outside brings things back in to perspective.
Give yourself a compliment.
I give off great energy. People call me the energizer bunny. I love life, feel so blessed and I guess that really shows.
If you could give “the college you” one piece of advice what would it be?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. That means don’t get so stressed out over every paper, every test, every grade. Yes, it is important to do well, to get a great first job, but have fun doing it! Things will work out.