Financial Women: Profiles in Diversity Series

Melissa Maquilan Radic

In our allyship with the women of color in the financial services industry and our membership, we are closing the year with a series of member interviews aimed at giving us a glimpse into their career journeys, spotlighting their challenges and successes. 

We hope this series will help provide insight into ways that we can all better stand together and be a strong support system to one another.

In our third and final interview of the series, we feature Melissa Maquilan Radic, Corporate Sponsorship Co-Chair for FWSF and Director of Investor Relations & Capital Markets at IMPACT Community Capital. Enjoy.

What should people know about you, Melissa?

I am a relatively new resident of the Bay Area (if 6 years in San Francisco/Berkeley is new). Prior to moving here, I worked in New York and grew up in New Jersey. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1974, before my two siblings and I were born, and have been practicing physicians in Philadelphia for over 30 years. Today, I realize their experience as immigrants continues to influence my approach to life, both professionally and personally.

My parents both work in specialties dominated by white men, and I clearly remember my mother struggling against workplace biases. Facing these challenges, she would repeat her mantra to my sister and me: “Keep going!” Ignore the naysayers – internal and external – and prove to yourself and the world that you are just as, if not more, capable than anyone else .” I marveled at her persistence in such an unfair environment, but she persevered and cultivated her own success. In trying times, such as we face today, I remind myself to persevere and keep going.

My father’s experience was different from my mother’s but no less impactful on me. Growing up in the Philippines, his parents placed enormous importance on education. They also faced many financial hardships. So, when my father was admitted to medical school, my grandparents committed all their resources to make it work, but they only had enough money for him, the oldest of 4 children, to attend. This sacrifice from his entire family was not lost on us whenever we visited them in Cebu City, as we realized our lives could have been much different. To this day, my father continues to be a supportive force across the extended family. He has shown me that personal success is built on the people around you and it’s important to give back to that support network and the next generation.

What challenges have you faced as a woman of color in your profession?

Early in my career, I traveled across the U.S. marketing mutual funds to financial advisors. My meetings would have dozens of attendees and it was not uncommon that I was the only female and/or person of color in the room. I was also a recent college grad, making me one of the youngest people in the room, so safe to say, building instant credibility while onstage was a challenge. Haunted by my mother’s words to “Keep going!” I would spend hours researching my presentations and practicing my delivery in front of countless hotel mirrors in order to exude confidence. I was always concerned that as a woman and a minority, I would be quickly discounted if I didn’t have a firm command of my subject matter.

Over time, I was able to develop confidence and a presentation style that felt authentic to me, and not what I thought the audience wanted to hear. Once I found my voice, I was more comfortable onstage and a more effective leader, on and offstage.

These early years in my career opened my eyes to the lack of diversity in finance and the detriment produced by that gap, in everything from company culture to work results. When I changed jobs earlier this year, I intentionally looked for companies that had a diverse team and a business that was in line with my own sense of purpose. Today, I am proud to be at IMPACT Community Capital, where over half of the employees are women and also over half of employees are people of color.

What (or who) has helped you get ahead in your career and professional life?

Interestingly, more than half of my managers throughout my career have been women- almost all of whom understood the importance mentoring and sponsoring junior women.

One of my managers was an incredible sponsor and helped me attain higher education. She understood that in order to elevate my career, particularly as a woman in finance, any accreditations or secondary education would be an advantage. Consequently, she supported me in earning the CFA and CAIA designations and pursuing an Executive MBA. The credibility from these designations and the network I have built through these programs have been invaluable in building my career.

I also had two recent managers who were both women of color and they taught me the importance of self-promotion when it comes to your career. They laid the groundwork for me to lead stretch projects that developed my skillset and helped to build my brand across the company. Most importantly, they helped me to network across the company to build a roster of peers and leaders who could be my allies and advocates. They taught me the importance of thinking strategically about your career and to look for opportunities to show leadership your capabilities.

What can women of color and their allies do to support equal pay and equal opportunities for women and minorities?

Finance seems to be particularly opaque for women in terms of understanding compensation and career paths. Allies and women of color need to work together to help set equal levels of compensation across race and gender. They also can help by opening the lines of communication- share insights regarding compensation for similar roles and help advise how to ask for equal pay. I’ve found role playing can be helpful to practice asking management questions such as, “Where does my salary fit among my peers? If below others, why and what does it take to get to the next level?”

We can also help each other gain access to equal opportunities by elevating women and getting them the recognition they deserve. Simple actions such as creating opportunities for women to share their ideas and successes with leadership and giving them strategic, visible projects are important steps to promoting women.

What can organizations like FWSF do to continue supporting the advancement of women in business? How has the organization helped you?

Organizations like FWSF need to continue providing women the network and resources that can help elevate them, particularly in the current challenging environment. Many women, myself included, are trying to manage from home both unusual school schedules for their children and a full work schedule. In this struggle, it can be hard to get recognition for work done or to get selected for that next strategic project. We need to ensure that women get as much support and recognition as before COVID and are not set back in their careers when “work/life balance” has gone out the window.

FWSF has been personally important to me since I only knew a handful of people in the Bay Area when I moved here. FWSF provided an instant network of smart, generous women, who were willing to lend their time to share advice and connections to help advance my career. These women became integral to my support system, and they provided me the opportunity help pay it forward through the mentorship program. Mentoring women early in their finance careers is rewarding in itself, but I am especially thankful for everything I’ve learned from the perspectives of these incredible women

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I have volunteered on the FWSF Sponsorship Committee for the past two years. I am always humbled by the continued generous donations granted to us by our individual and corporate sponsors, especially this year which has been so difficult for employees and employers. FWSF’s work to advance women in finance would not be possible without these sponsors and it is comforting that even in these challenging times, we have supporters ready to extend a hand to carry us through together.

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