"The investment industry is best served by a diversity of thought and backgrounds. Providing opportunities for women to join the field is a big priority for me, both personally and professionally."
When Erin Bellissimo '93 arrived on Wall Street fresh out of college, the management major had everything she needed to navigate the male-dominated world of investing. She attributes her early confidence to the experiential learning opportunities she encountered at Bucknell.
"There was so much room for growth both inside and outside the classroom. I never saw myself as limited based on who I was or where I came from," says Bellissimo, whose tenure as a coxswain on the men's crew team helped hone her leadership skills. "When I started my investing career, I only ever saw myself as another capable individual in rooms that were dominated by men."
In 2015, Bellissimo stumbled upon the chance to shape the next generation of capable female investors as a founding board member of Girls Who Invest, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing female representation in finance.
Girls Who Invest invites rising college juniors from across the country to participate in intensive summer programs hosted annually at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Notre Dame. Students spend four weeks building a foundation in finance through courses taught by industry experts, followed by a six-week internship at one of the program's partner firms — including Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan.
Bellissimo got involved with Girls Who Invest at its inception and served as the catalyst for the program's launch at Notre Dame, where she now works as managing director of the Institute for Global Investing.
As a board member for Girls Who Invest, she uses her vast experience in business and academia — which includes time as a hedge fund partner and director of the Heilbrunn Center for Graham & Dodd Investing at Columbia University — to help shape the program’s hands-on curriculum.
"The whole experience is really based on the idea of bridging theory and practice," she says. "To build a bigger pipeline for women in the industry, we not only need to increase awareness around investing, but we also need to educate and provide real-life working opportunities."
It's an approach that served Bellissimo well at Bucknell, where she learned how to pitch products and analyze stocks in her first-year management courses. When developing programs that will be "life-changing for undergrads," she often reflects back on the classes that formed the launching pad for her career.
"One thing that Bucknell did really well that I bring into my work today is the concept of experiential learning," she says. "Girls Who Invest and the Notre Dame Institute for Global Investing are platforms for me to do everything I've dreamed of doing to educate future female investors and connect them with partners in the field — and hopefully create a positive impact on the industry."