“Despite the industry expansion, there is still a need to grow the number of women in finance leadership seats.”
A 2015 graduate of Wharton’s EMBA program in San Francisco, Jessica Ross is working hard to connect women in finance to Wharton and a $10,000 scholarship from the Financial Women of San Francisco. We asked Jessica, who is vice president and corporate controller at The Gymboree Corporation in San Francisco, to tell us more about the scholarship and her Wharton experience.

Winning the Scholarship

Established in 1956, the Financial Women of San Francisco (FWSF) is one of the most influential finance women’s organizations in the Bay Area. It offers a $10,000 scholarship for women enrolled in graduate degree programs interested in pursuing careers in finance.

I’m passionate about connecting women to this scholarship and Wharton for several reasons. First, the finance landscape looks different now than it did 20-30 years ago. There are a lot more opportunities for women today to get involved in finance roles whether it be disrupting the finance sector in the fintech space, building not-for-profit organizations to teach finance acumen in third world countries, or more traditional roles in professional services or within the CFO’s organization. However, despite the industry expansion, there is still a need to grow the number of women in finance leadership seats.

Second, I received this scholarship twice. The first time was as an undergraduate student at Berkeley. I was the first generation in my family to attend college. I got married and had my first child while at Cal and funded my way through school. The scholarship and the opportunities it provided played a big role in my ability to finish school and in my overall career trajectory. Years later, I received the same scholarship to attend Wharton’s EMBA program in San Francisco.  The role FWSF has played in my career journey is significant and I am excited to share this opportunity with others.

Why More Women Are Needed in Business School

We need to encourage more women to come to business school because we need more women at the table and in C-suite positions. Business school is an excellent way to get more women into those seats, and Wharton’s EMBA program prepares students for executive leadership. I talk to applicants regularly about this program. I tell them how my life prior to Wharton focused on taking care of my family and my career. Coming to Wharton was the first time I did something that was purely an investment in me – and it was life changing. It allowed me to think differently and see business holistically with a CFO mindset. It also built confidence and my belief that I can achieve anything.

Being a Working Mom in the Program

Before coming to Wharton, being a working mom was a chore and a challenge. The executive leadership training at Wharton helped me understand the importance of balancing all the pillars in my life, which means being clear on priorities and fully engaged with each pillar in that moment. Since graduating, I’ve become a better leader, mother, and world contributor. It’s no longer a chore to be a working mom – it’s a very different experience now.

Jessica with her children

Advice for Prospective Students

Plan, plan, and plan, especially if you have a family. I started planning for Wharton a year in advance, and that included conversations with the key stakeholders in my life like my mother, kids, ex-husband, boss, and colleagues. Make sure everyone is on board and knows that it will be a team effort. I actually felt like my family became closer during my time at Wharton because I learned to focus on what was really important and learned how to say no. That time was about me, my kids, my career, and school. The experience was priceless.

Posted: August 22, 2016

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