This summer, I interned for Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. I can say that it was definitely one of the most educational experiences I’ve ever had. Before my internship, I attended a Macaulay Dean’s Dinner about the world of finance with guest Ellyn McColgan, a woman in the field for well over 20 years. She spoke about her experience as a woman in a male-dominated field, and gave us many tips on how to represent ourselves once we had gotten our internship. As a young woman, I found it extremely interesting to note her experiences in the “Boys Club” of business and was a little nervous to begin my own foray into this scene.
The first day I arrived, I simply took everything in with large eyes. I was introduced to the Financial Advisors that I would be working with and was settled into the cubicle I was to have for the next two months. It was hard, at first, to put together a wardrobe that was appropriate for work. I couldn’t wear my comfortable jeans or t-shirts, and sneakers were out of the question; however, I slowly got used to my dry clean only skirts, button down blouses and cardigans. It was a rush to get on the subway in the morning and walk to work knowing that you were a part of the business world in New York City. I was working in the headquarters of Merrill Lynch, on 56th street and 5th Avenue, I don’t think there is a more crowded are in New York City. After work, I would wander around 5th Avenue, taking in the sights.
After a few weeks things became rote, I stumbled onto the subway in the early morning and made it to my building without any conscious attention, the security guard knew me by sight and I would take the elevator up to my floor quickly and start my day. Some days there was not too much to do, and some days there was no time to breathe, but I loved every second. Then in August, President Obama made the announcement that the U.S. Government might have to default and the speculation began. It was an amazing experience to be a part of the people that were making decisions based on information they were getting from inside sources, as well as newscasts. When the market fell over 300 points in one day, I was able to observe many people’s attitudes. Some took it very hard, but many had the common sense to make sure that they never over-invested. They followed many risk regulations, and although that hampered their probability of larger returns, it also minimized their risk factor.
Some people might say that interning in finance when our economy is in such a state of lethargy isn’t very beneficial, but I think that I learned more, when I was able to learn what to do in a “bear” Market, than I would have in a “bull” Market. In regards to being a woman, today things are different. I did not feel at all discriminated against and there were many women on my floor — not as many women as men, but there is a discrepancy in every field. I had an incredible experience, despite these two factors working against me.