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Student Loan Refinance Head Barbara Thomas’ Advice to Those Caught in the Gender Gap

August 26, 2018

The gender gap, sounds like something that ended when women gained the right to vote, but think again. Every day women are fighting for the same treatment as men. Not only do women get paid 80 cents to the dollar that men receive, but recent research from Pew Research Center shows that women hold only 10% of the top executive positions. The same report goes on to illustrate that in the financial sector, women make up only 8.1% of executive level positions. Basically, what all these stats are showing is that women not only get paid less, but they also don’t have leadership positions. If you’re like us, you’re thinking finding a woman executive in the financial sector is like finding a unicorn, but we did it! Luckily, we have the pleasure of working with SouthEast Bank Executive Vice President and Head of its student loan refinance division Education Loan Finance, Barbara Thomas. We sat down with Barbara and discussed what her long and successful financial career has been like and if she has been affected in the past by the gender gap.

How did you start working in the financial industry?

My first job out of college was a credit research analyst for a municipal bond insurance company. After graduate school, I went into investment banking.

Why did you want to work in finance?

My BS degree is in mathematics, and MBA in Finance, so I consider myself quantitative and highly analytical. I always had a knack for numbers so a career in finance was a natural fit.

Did you ever feel that people in your personal life tried to deter you from working in the finance industry?

My family and friends have been very supportive of me and my career throughout my life.

Did you have moments when you reconsidered your career? How did you move past them?

Yes for sure. I have three children – I traveled a lot and worked very long hours, including weekends, throughout my career so I was away from them quite a bit. The work life balance just doesn’t exist in investment banking. However, I achieved so much in my career, and my children have been so supportive of me and are proud of my accomplishments. I believe I set a great example of how hard work and perseverance can lead to success and all three of my children are successful in their own right. In addition, I always made sure that I was there for them when they needed me most and for the important events in their life. Whether it was editing their papers at midnight when I arrived home from work or driving for hours after a long business trip to make my daughter’s field hockey game, I made sure I was there for them.

Can you explain a bit about the gender dynamics in the finance industry at that time?

No doubt, the finance industry has been and still remains today an old boys’ club. I believe that not much has changed to promote women, including providing the proper mentoring and advancement opportunities, in the past 25 years that I have been in the business. When I finally achieved Managing Director status at Morgan Stanley, so many of my clients and professionals outside of the firm thought that I was already an MD for years.

Can you share some moments that you think may have been different, if you were of a different gender?

There are so many moments- from being promoted long after demonstrated success, lack of invitations to casual events (i.e. golf outings and yes I play!) outside of the office, lower compensation than my male peers and lack of opportunity for lateral moves within financial firms. Just to name a few.

There is often a stigma associated with women – you have to choose between your career or a family. Do you have any comments regarding that statement?

Yes, in fact, when I had my third child and was an investment banker, my colleagues thought I was going to retire. So I left that firm to take on a new investment banking position in a more exciting industry at another investment banking firm – that showed them all that they truly misjudged me!

Were there other women that you had worked with in finance? Did they too notice the gender dynamics of the industry?

There were very few women and most left after they made vice president because the opportunities for advancement were slim and the uphill climb was just too steep. We all felt it.

Have you seen gender dynamics change in the finance industry within the last decade?

Nothing has really changed other than the creation of “Heads of Diversity” and “Diversity Committees” in corporations. It is very hard to change the dynamics when men continue to serve in the vast majority of leadership and management roles in the finance industry.

Have you had similar experiences in your current role? 

In my current role as an Executive of Southeast Bank, I have been presented with opportunities to take on new challenges and leadership roles with the full support of our CEO. As head of certain of the Bank’s business lines for the bank, including Education Loan Finance, mentoring and promoting women is a high priority for me.

What advice can you share with women today who may be facing similar challenges in industries like technology? Where the gender dynamics may not be equal?

Always stay true to who you are, demand to take the lead on those plum assignments, prove that you are the right choice for the position, have a voice and speak up but make sure what you say is relevant and toot your own horn, because no one is going to promote you like you can!

 

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2019-04-17
Advice From A University of Tennessee Knoxville Graduate on Attending College

I have officially completed college. I have gone through four years at a University and taken all the courses needed to graduate. From major courses, general education courses, to classes like a social dance that add a few hours to my schedule. I am now officially a University of Tennessee college grad and ready to embark on the real world…. or am I? As adult life has QUICKLY approached, I find myself wondering where the last four years have gone. Would I have done anything differently? Is there anything I missed? There are a few things I would have liked to tell myself while going through college and here they are:   1- Going into college, it’s okay not to know what you are doing. MOST PEOPLE DON’T. Throughout my college career, I have found that most people do not know what they are doing after graduation. When I first came to the University of Tennessee I took a class that was all about finding a major that best suits you. The class had me take a personality test, express my interest, and meet with college advisors in order to find a major that could lead to a career. After this class, I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do but I had an idea of what my major could lead to. Finding out what you actually will be doing after receiving your undergraduate degree requires research. You should be doing job research, salary research, gaining some experience, and maybe even attend graduate school. College is a time to find yourself and what you see yourself doing in a career. A clear career path doesn’t always present itself right away.   2- Be responsible. Finding yourself does not mean to be irresponsible. Nights with friends are fun and create lasting memories, but take care of yourself. While at the University of Tennessee, there was pressure from people to go out instead of study or to be socializing. To get past my FOMO I reminded myself that I was at school to better myself, no one else. This meant homework came first, scheduling time with friends was necessary, and staying on top of my health was part of my everyday routine. Do your homework, study, eat, clean, exercise, SAVE YOUR MONEY, and always remember why you are ultimately in college. Set goals and prioritize responsibilities so you can stay on task.   3 - GAIN EXPERIENCE. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting experience in your field of choice. If you don’t know what you want to do, explore several careers and internships. The University of Tennessee encouraged students to get out of school experience by offering study abroad trips, internship fairs, and volunteer opportunities. While at the University of Tennessee I had three separate internships exploring my career options. Now when applying for jobs I find EVERY job will ask for your work experience. Having an internship, volunteer work, or shadowing under your belt can be a helpful edge. Getting experience is such an important aspect for your future and is something everyone should consider.   4 - Get Involved. College is hard and freshman year can be lonely. Start looking at groups and clubs early. Finding a sports club, sorority/fraternity or church group to get involved in will help you to make new friends. The University of Tennessee offers hundreds of clubs and activities to get involved in. While being in school I joined a sorority where I found friends that wanted to get involved in different clubs with me. I joined my major club which helped me meet people who had the same interest as me and was a great networking experience. I also got involved in a religious club at the University of Tennessee which allowed me to share my personal preferences with others. The University of Tennessee offers many sports clubs for anyone that wants to get involved in an athletic team and has groups that participate in volunteer work such as United Way® and Best Buddies®.  Accept that you may be lonely at times without your family always being around. Recognize that you don’t need to be afraid to make new friends and get out of your comfort zone.   5 - Prepare for what is waiting for you after graduation, STUDENT LOANS. They may seem far away for now, but soon after graduation loan payments begin. Take into consideration how expensive your loans are. As a college student I never really paid attention to that. Now that I am out of school and saw I was $30,000 in debt, I was shocked. Know how much the interest rates on the loans are. Interest rates can cause you to end up paying an extra 3000+ in just interest on your loans. This is definitely something to consider when going into college and choosing a career path.   6 - Stay calm. A four-year university accumulates into A LOT of homework. Before you know you have 5 assignments, 2 papers, and 3 exams in the span of two weeks. This can be overwhelming when looking over your planner. You may find yourself questioning how you’re going to get everything done and when you will get to sleep next. Remember to stay calm. You are capable of getting everything done and most importantly sleeping. Plan ahead and stay on schedule. Throughout my four years, I kept a planner and wrote in every assignment, test, or even an event I had going on each week. This way, I was able to get started on homework early if I needed to and make time for relaxation. Getting homework done a few nights earlier then the due date helps when planning to study for exams. Study for a few hours every night a week prior to the exam, this helps to eliminate stressful cramming.   7 - At the end of the day, remember to have fun. This is for most people, a once in a lifetime experience. This will likely be your last time as a student before you join the workforce. Make time for friends, call your parents, and make incentives for yourself. Want to go to the football game this weekend? Finish your homework Thursday and have a fun-filled Saturday with friends. Whether it be hanging out with friends on a hike, going to a movie, or catching up over dinner, make time for you and the people around you.   My name is Jordon Brock and I am a SENIOR at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. College has flown by and soon I will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a minor in Business. I started my college career by going through sorority recruitment and while becoming a member of Delta Gamma started off as just a group of girls that I could hang out with in my spare time, it gave me more opportunities than I could ever imagine. Delta Gamma gave me the privilege to be the All Sing Director two years in a row where I got to lead our chapter in choreography and songs from popular musicals as well as allowing me to coach Smokey’s Howl; a cheer competition incorporated into Homecoming at UT. Outside of DG, I had the opportunity to be a marketing intern at three separate companies. My learning experience at UT, leadership roles in Delta Gamma, along with what I have learned in my internships has made me prepared, but more importantly excited for the future. I would like to work on a Public Relations or Marketing team at a company that strives to connect people with brands and organizations. I love communicating with others and hope to build relationships with clients and other organizations in my future career!  

Check Out These Scholarships to Save Money on Student Loans for College

2019-04-12
Comparing Salary to the Cost of Living

Recently, CNBC released an article discussing student loan debt in relation to locations throughout the United States. This has many questioning whether they can find a job title in their field where they want to live, that will support their current bills, payments, lifestyle, and student loans. Depending on the location and cost of living, you could be making thousands less in one location when compared to another. To add more insult you could be expected to pay off more than you are capable of based on your location. When searching for a career path, it’s vital to consider where your job title is going to be the most successful and where you can afford your current lifestyle. Here are some important factors to keep in mind when

Location Expenses

Consider the cost of living in a variety of locations.  Everyday costs like food, housing, utilities, and transportation can all vary depending on where you live in the United States. Let’s see how a location can be affected by each of these variables. Generally, big cities are known to be more costly compared to rural areas.  The Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks price levels for food, housing and education in each state and compares them to the national level. This information can be put into a dollar value scale to simplify which states are more expensive to live in than others. For example, the value of a dollar in New York, Hawaii, and California is less than the national average dollar. Meaning your dollar bill is comparable to some cent values in other locations. In states like Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio that are not as urbanized the dollar values higher than the national average dollar. Meaning your dollar goes a little further in these areas.  

Housing Costs

You may be asking, “What makes big cities so pricey?” and there are actually a few different reasons. The main drive for high priced locations is housing. For cities with a high population, there needs to be an abundance of housing. A high population causes overcrowded cities to have a limited amount of space for the number of people wanting to live there.   A high housing demand creates steep prices in the market because everyone is in need of a place to live. If the city life is looking a little out of budget for you, remember living outside the city and commuting is an option, and may be more cost-effective. Aside from the costs of housing, costs like transportation, utilities, and insurance may affect the cost of living.  

Transportation Costs

We all know how expensive a car, gas, and maintenance can be. When commuting to work or even the supermarket, the distance between point A and point B will affect the amount of money you spend. .Whereas, living in the city you may literally be paying for convenience. You may be spending $200 or more a month on a permanent parking spot for your car, in addition to spending money on transportation fees. For example, in New York you could take a bus to the subway station, costing you around $2.50. Then you commute to work on the subway, costing you another $2.75. If you do this twice a day (at least) the commute will cost $10.50. Spending $10.50 five days a week for a month will get you to a grand total of $210.00 not even considering additional outings.  Please note that these prices may not be the same for all locations. For example, the average bus fare in Los Angeles is $1.75, but in Washington DC the bus fare ranges from $2.00-$5.00 depending on the commute.  

Utilities

Utilities will also affect the cost of living, the amount depending on where you live. The cost of utilities can vary based on government regulations. Things like how much water, electricity, and gas, you are consuming can be dependent based on the weather where you are located. If you are living in a location where the winter can get very cold, that could be making a dent in your wallet on utility bills. For example, Alaska, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have an average electric rate of $21.62 per Kwh (kilowatt hour) a month.  In a place where it is always warm like Hawaii, the air conditioning may be used more frequently and the average electric rate would be $32.40 per Kwh a month.   Additional utility costs may include garbage removal and sewage costs. In the United States, the average cost for garbage removal is from $12.00 -$20.00 a household. Sewage rates are usually included in water rates that can be viewed with the electricity bill and can altogether be around $50.00.  In some cases, if you are living in an apartment, utilities like garbage removal and sewage will be included in your rent, or it can be separate on your electricity bill. Talk to your landlord or call housing management to find out what is included.  

Insurance

Besides housing, transportation, and utilities, you will have car insurance, renter’s insurance.  The average rate for car insurance in the United States is $118.63 per month but can vary based on the location you are in. For example, the average cost of auto insurance in North Carolina is $865 each year while the average cost of auto insurance in Oklahoma is $1,542 a year. T Auto insurance pricing can depend on the company you have insurance with, your age, and even your gender!  For example, some companies will have a 1% price difference between genders.   If you choose to live in the city, it’s likely you may find yourself renting. Renter’s insurance is an additional cost you’ll want to consider.  The average, renter’s insurance in the United State is $187 per year. Renter’s insurance can be more expensive in some areas due to population and crime. If you live in a high populated area, insurance could be priced higher because the crime risk is higher.  The insurance company takes greater measures to cover your belongings in high populated areas. Renter’s insurance in Florida has an average rate of $217 per month, while in South Dakota the average rate is $118 a month.   Before completely scaring you back into your parent’s house for life, there are a few resources you can use to find a job and field of your choice, in areas that could be most profitable.  

Job Search Resources

 

SimplyHired

https://www.simplyhired.com/salaries SimplyHired will estimate the salary your specific job will be making in different locations. All you have to do is type in the job title you are looking for, and the city and state, into the search engine. Using this tool you can find out things like a nurse can make $50,000 in Dallas, Texas but, in Indianapolis, Indiana is making closer to $40,000. Although this does not calculate the cost of living, this website pulls up jobs from all over the United States. SimplyHired gives users easy access to salary information when starting to compare careers in different regions.  

Check Out These 3 Steps to Negotiating Salary

 

Expatistan

https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/nashville Cost of living is an important factor when searching for a location that is right for you and your preferred career. Hence why we created this helpful blog! Expatistan has a feature that pulls up a spreadsheet estimating how lifestyle choices may cost in different cities or even countries. For example, when searching in Nashville, Tennessee, Expatistan created a page that included potential prices for food, housing, clothes, transportation, personal care, and entertainment. Expatistan estimated:   Rent 900 Sq Foot Apartment - $1,408/month Lunchtime Meal - $14 Sports Shoes - $98 Shampoo- $6   This website is a great place to find detailed estimates of what you may be spending on everyday items.  A tool like this can be very helpful when trying to manage the salary and lifestyle you are looking for.  

CNN Money

https://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/index.html After finding an estimated salary and cost of living for a specific location, you can compare it to other areas with CNN Money Cost of Living Calculator.  You’ll need to input
  • where you live now
  • where you are considering living
  • give an estimate of how much your salary is now (or what the salary is in the field you are searching for)
Based on the information provided, the calculator will estimate how much you would be making somewhere else. For example, if you live in Atlanta, Georgia right now and are making $50,000 a year, and you would like to move to Bozeman, Montana, the comparable salary is $50,709, which is around the same amount. Now if you moved, from Atlanta with a $50,000 salary to San Francisco, the comparable salary is $97,470. Once again, the cost of living will factor in what you can afford in each region.   Comparing salaries, regions, and the cost of living can help you determine where you’re aspiring jobs can be the most beneficial for your lifestyle. Consider where you will have the most financial wiggle room. Educate yourself on the cost of housing, transportation, utilities, and insurance before jumping into the car moving to a new city. Optimize your options by looking at the cost of convenience versus living outside of a location for less and other opportunities. What city you will feel the most at home in? If you are not satisfied with your options, try a different job title or location, you’re not a tree. Scope out all of your alternatives and find one that betters your lifestyle in the long run.

Top 7 Money Mistakes For Young Professionals

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.   Resources https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2018/05/10/cost-of-living-value-of-dollar-in-every-state/34567549/ https://ask.metafilter.com/37074/Why-is-it-more-expensive-to-live-in-a-city  https://www.priceoftravel.com/595/public-transportation-prices-in-80-worldwide-cities/ https://www.chooseenergy.com/electricity-rates-by-state/ https://www.thezebra.com/auto-insurance/average-auto-insurance/#state https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-renters-insurance#nogo https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-life-insurance#nogo
2019-04-08
What Employees Want HR To Know

HR often has a tough job, keeping employees happy and working in the best interest of the company all while complying with legal requirements and internal policies. It’s a hard line to walk! But when it comes to making your company attractive to potential employees and keeping your all-star staff, communication is key! And there are a few things people want HR to know but often don’t know how to voice.  

Fire the jerks.

An article in Inc. magazine® made waves a few years ago by urging managers to “fire the jerks.” Some managers defended their less popular employees by saying that it would make sense at times to keep an unpleasant staff member because of their high performance or other redeeming qualities. Very few people want to work with a jerk, and they might be leaving your company because of this. If HR doesn’t have a pulse on employee relations, the bad behavior might be flying below the radar and causing attrition of excellent employees. Having a discipline policy in place and caring about the wellbeing of the workforce over the livelihood of one jerk will help promote a respectable workplace culture that people don’t fantasize about leaving just to avoid one bully.  

We know our worth.

People have lots of tools to find salaries comparable to their own. A quick internet search brings up resources like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com where people can see what others are making in their field, in their city, and even self-reported salaries of other people at their same company. Plus, many employees see the value in having open discussions with each other about pay to make sure that they’re making a fair amount for their hard work. With these things in mind, HR needs to know people want an open and honest conversation about compensation. Initial negotiations, promotions, and reviews need to be transparent, and HR should be prepared to see some resources printed from employees at these meetings.  

Somethings are more important than pay.

You can’t just throw money at problems. There might be alternatives that cost the company less but give people more incentive to work hard and be engaged. Check out some of the suggestions below, including student loan assistance, flexible schedules, telecommuting, wellness benefits, and time off.

Student loan debt assistance and resources are valuable to us.

Student loan debt and personal finance matters can be a big stressor for all types of employees. Whether it’s catching up on retirement funds, paying off student loans, or general help with things like budgeting, saving, and investing, we want trustworthy financial wellness resources. No benefits program is going to fit everyone, but surveying employees or offering different ways to take advantage of these kinds of benefits can mean a big boost for interest in the company and retention of valued employees.  

Learn More About ELFI for Business

 

We care more about balance and family/personal time than older generations.

Employees today don’t value the kind of work habits that create workaholics. Instead of burning the candle at both ends, people are taking advantage of paid time off and set working hours so that they’re not constantly on the clock. Unlike employees of former eras who found self-sacrifice to be something that gave them purpose, HR needs to know that breaks from work and finding balance is a key requirement for an energetic and productive workforce. Far from having a poor work ethic, the focus on mental health is important. A healthy balance between work and personal life can really motivate people to focus and be efficient while working. People today take caretaker roles for aging parents, realize the importance of spending time with children, and even prioritize caring for pets. HR needs to be aware of how policies can help attract, retain, and promote excellence among employees.  

The ability to work remotely matters.

Not every employee can do their job remotely, but in the digital era, an increasing number of employees can work from almost anywhere. Bad traffic, long commutes, and flexible schedules to accommodate everyday adulting, working remote can ease stress and yield great results. Plus, the jury is no longer out on how well this works. According to Inc.®, employees who had the ability to telecommute took shorter breaks, used fewer sick days, and took less time off. A good telecommuting policy could benefit the workforce and improve business outcomes.  

Mental health is important to us.

No career is worth sacrificing mental health and wellness. People who find themselves working for a company that negatively affects their mental health report they feel worse than someone who has no job at all. There are many negative effects of a job that could damage our physical health and increased instances of mental illness. Many millennial parents tired themselves out in jobs that brought them little fulfillment. Therefore the millennial generation highly values mental wellness at work and at home. We crave fulfillment and balance that is created by a human-centered workplace. Mental health should be something our employers care about and support with good workplace policies and resources covered in our benefits program.   Every company is different, but people are people no matter where you go. They want to be empowered to do their job well. They also want opportunities to learn new things and still have a personal life. If you’re feeling the disconnect at your workplace, open those lines of communication. You’ll see a difference in how people work and how they feel about the organization.  

 How Can You Prevent Employee Turnover

  NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.