Conference Grant Recipient: Michèle Barnett Berg by: Amy Bucher

Portfolia logoThe JL Boston Conference Grant Fund was established to encourage, empower, and enable active members of the Junior League of Boston to pursue training opportunities, through an offset of registration and related costs. We’re excited to share how our 2017-2018 recipients used their awards for personal and professional development.

Our fourth profiled recipient is Michèle Barnett Berg.

Conference: Portfolia Summit

Date: April 18th, 2018

Location: Boston, MA

JL Grant Recipient and Attendee: Michèle Barnett Berg

Michèle Barnett Berg attended the Portfolia Summit and was inspired to learn about this new technology platform that makes it easier for women to invest and make educated financial decisions, and creates markets that support companies founded and led by women. Portfolia was founded with a vision for a new model of entrepreneurial investing designed specifically for women. Portfolia provides an investing community in which participants have access to investment education, can be active in diligence, and build financial muscle. The company’s goal is to have the collective power of 100,000 women invested in its Portfolia Funds by 2023.

Adrienne Penta, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Center for Women & Wealth at Brown Brothers Harriman, speaks to conference attendees.

Adrienne Penta, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Center for Women & Wealth at Brown Brothers Harriman, speaks to conference attendees.

A program highlight included a speaking presentation by Adrienne Penta, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Center for Women & Wealth at Brown Brothers Harriman. Adrienne’s talk was eye opening and informative as she discussed the following research and challenges:

  • 51% of personal wealth in the U.S. is held by women.
  • 39% of investable assets are held by women.
  • Women are the primary breadwinners in 40% of U.S. households.
  • Women are starting companies at 1.5 times the national average.

Yet, it seems women have a confidence problem when it comes to their financial health.

  • 74% of women say they don’t know much about investing.
  • Men and women have roughly the same financial I.Q. in the U.S.
  • Women do not give themselves credit for what they know, and tend to abdicate their financial decisions to their husbands. (This trend has increased from 54% among female Baby Boomers, to 61% among female Millenials.)

Adrienne discussed her work at the Center for Women & Wealth, the steps they are taking to make the wealth management industry more welcoming towards women, and how families benefit from having diversity in decision making and having women at the table. She also cited research from Women Give 2018 report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University regarding the larger impact on girls than boys of parents’ actions in giving as a model of behavior. Importantly, this suggests that our acting as role models and demonstrating that we as women can be investors fosters more financial confidence in the next generation. Adrienne’s parting advice was the following:

  1. Be visible .
  2. Bring a younger woman with you–meaning bridge the confidence gap and support inclusion.
  3. Tell your story–whether at the dinner table or on social media, be seen as a key financial decision maker and investor.
Judith Rodin and Leslie Seymour in conversation.

Judith Rodin and Leslie Seymour in conversation.

Michèle also found the fireside chat between Judith Rodin and Leslie Seymour inspiring, educational, and entertaining. Judith Rodin, an entrepreneurial philanthropist, shared stories from her time serving as the first female President at the University of Pennsylvania, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and serving on nine public boards. Her message was for women to educate themselves, build their financial muscle, participate in their communities, and navigate male-dominated arenas with diplomatic grace. Leslie Seymour, former magazine editor at More and Marie Claire, discussed her experience with transitioning from traditional publishing to a more entrepreneurial adventure as CEO of CoveyClub, and the importance of women creating communities of sharing and learning.

Participants also heard from a panel of Portfolia lead investors regarding the focus on diversity and the new FemTech fund that will focus on investing in Women’s Health. The panelists shared their approach and commitment to diversity in these funds, and how they are supporting many female founders who have often been overlooked by traditional venture investment.

Portfolia founder, Trish Costello and Gotham Gal investor, Joanne Wilson, offer a fireside chat.

Portfolia founder, Trish Costello and Gotham Gal investor, Joanne Wilson, offer a fireside chat.

The conference finished with another fireside chat by Portfolia founder, Trish Costello and Gotham Gal investor, Joanne Wilson. Trish founded Portfolia to realize two of her lifelong passions: supporting and investing in innovative entrepreneurs, and unlocking the personal and professional talents of women. She discussed the challenges that women founders face getting funded and how the Portfolia investors have the ability to create an entrepreneurial renaissance when they back the companies they want in the marketplace. She shared some of the stories of the companies that have received investment, the benefits of being part of the Portfolia community, and the power of collective learning. Joanne shared her personal story of how she began as an angel investor in the late 90’s–a true pioneer–and how she has developed the endurance and confidence to often be the only woman at the table. She emphasized the importance of creating a hypothesis and a consistent approach to looking at investments. Joanne also spoke about the current venture climate and the fact that there are more women starting companies that are fundable, but there is a need to look more diligently as women network differently. Joanne advised that women should support women, that men should support women, and that there must be a conscious decision to support diversity. She was excited by the potential impact of the presence and engagement of the women attending the Portfolia summit.

Michèle was grateful that she had the opportunity to attend such an interesting and empowering conference. She wants to encourage other members to take advantage of the opportunity to apply for a training grant, as the Junior League benefits when its members can bring forward collective knowledge.