What drew these women into the financial field, and what lessons they can share with young women?

Illustration by Peter Oumanski

A few summers ago, I accompanied a group of teenage girls on a field trip to a brokerage firm, where they were scheduled to learn about investing. The session covered the usual ground of explaining stocks, bonds and mutual funds. But what made it stand out was that all the sessions were taught by female financial advisers. And what most interested the girls was how the women had begun their careers.

One woman, for example, had majored in speech communications in college and learned how to work with people by selling sneakers. When her mother bought shares of stock in a utility company for her, she was hooked. “I left lights on in the house to make money for my company,” she said, and she eventually joined a broker training program.

I think of this episode whenever female executives in the financial services industry visit us at Kiplinger. They come to talk about their businesses, but, like those teenage girls, I’m curious about how they achieved their positions—and what lessons they can share with young women.

One recent visitor to our offices was Terri Kallsen, executive vice president for investor services at Charles Schwab. It’s Kallsen’s job to oversee Schwab’s network of more than 300 retail branch offices, as well as its wealth-management and financial-planning services. On Kallsen’s agenda, among other things, was to highlight investing costs as a matter of importance for investors—particularly women. Schwab, says Kallsen, has a policy of refunding the previous quarter’s fee if a customer is dissatisfied, to “take the risk out of paying fees.” But I was also intrigued when she said…