Interview with Stephanie Downey -- Leader and Founder of the Duke Chapter of Smart Woman Securities
1. Tell us about yourself
Growing up with a single mother, I learned early on the importance of financial independence. I truly believe that every woman must have the ability to manage her own funds, not only for herself, but for her children. Mainly, access to money allows women the ability to leave unkind partners, protect themselves and their children legally, and open doors to better lives through education.
This idea stayed with me as I grew older, motivating me to do my best in school. Today, as a student at Duke University, I am pursuing a major in economics, a certificate in markets and management, and a minor in history (with a concentration in economic history).
One day during the fall semester of 2010, I stumbled upon a great opportunity to teach other female undergraduates basic financial literacy: Smart Woman Securities (SWS).
2. What is the mission of SWS?
SWS is a not-for-profit organization focused on investment education for undergraduate women. Through instructive seminars, mentoring initiatives, and meetings with successful investors such as Warren Buffett, SWS provides resources upon which women can build greater knowledge of the financial markets.
By giving young women direct investment experience while still in college, SWS aims to empower a new generation of women investors for the future. Learn more about SWS here. We believe that SWS can succeed in creating a new generation of women with greater investment knowledge and financial influence. SWS is not only dedicated to educating its members; we aim to create a movement that brings financial responsibility into the hands of women everywhere.
3. How many chapters of Smart Woman Securities are there nationally?
4. What are the benefits of Smart Woman Securities?
Investment education is the foundation of SWS, as the organization ultimately aims to provide students with the skills necessary to research companies and make investment decisions. The SWS education model is based on several tenets which combine to form a comprehensive and cumulative curriculum which we believe is helpful in giving students a basic framework in which to learn about investing. All our educational programs are supplemented by our mentoring initiatives, and culminate in real-life investment experience for the students. This ultimate “learning-by-doing” model is what we emphasize to our members in SWS.
In our effort to achieve the mission of SWS, we also aim to provide an opportunity for our members to interact with successful women and men in business. The SWS Mentoring initiative is designed to expose students to accomplished professionals in the fields of finance and business. Industry Mentors specialize in helping SWS Research Analysts to become more knowledgeable about a certain industry. Serving as another resource, the role of Professional Mentors is to provide students with an outlet in which to learn about a broad range of interests in investing and business.
The ultimate goal of SWS is to educate women about investing and the financial markets. Thus, SWS encourages real-life investment experiences for students. In the SWS model, Research Teams led by students conduct research within various industries and make investment recommendations to a student-run Investment Board at each chapter.
The Investment Board reviews all stock reports, discusses stock pitches, and ultimately makes a decision for the chapter's Investment Fund. The SWS “learning-by-doing” model serves to educate students about investing by giving them a hands-on opportunity to manage a portfolio.
To invest in the market, SWS chapters receive donations from individuals and corporate partners who want to help women learn about investing and financial responsibility. Using this capital, students at each chapter conduct their own research, create reports, and ultimately make investment decisions.
5. How can our readers help your cause?
Any women who wish to aid our cause can do any of the following:
1. Volunteer to become a professional mentor via e-mail: Professional Mentors are professionals that have been successful in various areas of business, and can serve as resources for our members in a variety of ways. Professional Mentors offer insight into questions about investing and finance or even career opportunities, and are available to answer questions about personal decisions related to these fields.
2. Volunteer as an Industry Mentor via e-mail: Industry Mentors are professionals that are knowledgeable in the industry that the students are studying. Industry Mentors help out in the Investment Project, and also serve as resources for Research Teams that are making stock recommendations. They share their expertise through conference calls, workshops, and a variety of other realms.
3. Become a Corporate Partner: Your company can partner with Duke SWS. In exchange for a donation, your company can receive several exclusive benefits.
Make a donation: The national organization of Smart Woman Securities is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Programs are administered by student volunteers at their college chapters. Neither students nor the SWS Board of Directors are compensated for their work in SWS. All donations go directly to Smart Woman Securities' educational programs.
Follow Duke Smart Woman Securities on Twitter:http://twitter.com/#!/DukeSWS