Women on Wall Street Talk Sustainability, Jobs

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While the panel discussion at last week's 14th annual Women on Wall Street conference explored sustainability and its links to the financial world, much of the talk in the reception hall was about the current job climate.

While many in the audience found the panel discussion inspiring, it didn't address their sense of professional vulnerability now permeating the marketplace. As the Wall Street job scene continues to be battered along with the markets, many of the event's 3,000 attendees - nearly all of them women - said they were investing significant time in networking and updating their resumes to be ready for whatever might happen.

Maria Tassiello, Deutsche Bank vice president of compliance, said she feels bolstered that her firm has fared better than most, but adds "this is still Wall Street, so I'm not totally secure." She advises women to network to secure and further their careers, and to carefully explore potential employers' work-life programs - like child care and maternity leave - to ensure a good, long-lasting fit if they come on board.

Another attendee, Carol DeWolf, recently took a position in sales for Nomura Securities after quitting Lehman Brothers before the bank's failure. She, too, feels secure in her new job, yet she sees clients closing down and her former Lehman colleagues without work. DeWolf regularly updates her resume, frequents job Web sites, and networks with people of all industries - not only finance.

Networking For Security

Lynn Niccaretta, a Deutsche Bank manager in trade finance, is "as secure as anyone can be right now." In times like these, she believes, women should actively network. "New York has a very tight-knit community (of women in finance)," she said. "It's especially important to keep up with that network."

One analyst, who asked not to be named, said the vast nature of today's unpredictable job market gives her comfort, since she finds camaraderie with other nervous workers. "You just keep your head down and do the best job you can do," she said. Volunteering in one's professional community as well as nonprofit groups are good ways to network, she believes, though she wishes women who hold senior positions were more approachable.

One paralegal at a corporate law firm said her company isn't replacing employees lost to attrition. "The work has slowed down tremendously," she reported. "Clients can't get financing these days. It's hard not to feel nervous when it's in your face 24 hours a day." She's been networking among personal contacts, and has sought mentors among senior women in her firm. "I've given up on job boards," she added.

One assistant vice president at Merrill Lynch put it simply: The job market "sucks," she said. "It's like waiting for the anvil to drop - you know it will. It's just a matter of when and how hard." She has updated her resume, contacted a headhunter and posted her profile on online job sites - with little results. "Knock on wood, I'll be okay," she said.

Panelists Discuss Environmental Issues

Back at the podium, the conference speakers touted sustainability.

Governments, investors, accounting firms and individuals are waking up to the connection between the financial and environmental crises. However, it will fall to corporations to lead the way to environmentally sustainable practices that will contribute to a sustainable global economy, climate-risk expert Mindy Lubber Lubber told the conference. Lubber is president of Boston-based Ceres, which works with companies to address sustainability issues, and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk.

Illustrating the business impact of climate isssues, Hurricane Katrina three years ago cost insurers $41 billion in property damage alone. Droughts and water shortages affect food costs and manufacturing expenses.

"The impact of these issues is now, and it is financial," Lubber said. Commitment to sustainability "creates more and better jobs in the United States, using capital markets to drive change."

Women on Wall Street's other panelists included Janesse Thaw Bruce, publisher of Body+Soul magazine; Roelfien Kuijpers, global head of Deutsche Bank Advisors; Dina Habib Powell, global head of corporate engagement at Goldman Sachs, who helped launch the firm's 10,000 Women initiative; Major Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx; and Vickee Jordan Adams, U.S. director of media communications for Hill & Knowlton.

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