Fairfield Dolan Dean’s Executive Forum Explores Women, Leadership, and Wall Street

Fairfield Dolan Dean’s Executive Forum Explores Women, Leadership, and Wall Street

JPMorgan Chase CFO Jennifer Piepszak ’92

JPMorgan Chase CFO Jennifer Piepszak ’92 discussed her experience — and success — working in the male-dominated field of Wall Street finance.

I acknowledge that I stand on the shoulders of the women who came before me, although I know we need to keep developing more women in leadership roles and break the mold of what the classic profile of leadership looks like.

— JPMorgan Chase CFO Jennifer Piepszak ’92

The first of this spring’s Dolan Dean’s Executive Forum was held on February 18. Dean Zhan Li, DBA, and Provost Christine Siegel, PhD, engaged in a virtual sit down with JPMorgan Chase CFO Jennifer Piepszak ’92 to discuss her experience — and success — working in the male-dominated field of Wall Street finance.

Piepszak joined JPMorgan Chase 27 years ago and served in leadership roles in the business banking, mortgage banking, and credit card services sectors before being named CFO of the company in 2019. She is also a member of the company’s Operating Committee.

Thirty years ago, with her Fairfield accounting degree in hand, Piepszak was offered a job in public accounting right out of college — a benefit she attributed to the “terrific” program at Fairfield Dolan.

“Accounting is a discipline that encourages you to think critically. More broadly, Catholic education teaches you humanity,” Piepszak reflected. “Coming out of Fairfield, I was able to develop EQ (emotional intelligence) as well as IQ.”

Her time at one of the Big Six accounting firms gave her a strong foundation, before Piepszak shifted her focus to a career on Wall Street.

Despite its reputation, Wall Street is not nearly as male-dominated as it was a generation ago, said Piepszak, noting that nearly half of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s direct reports are women, and maintaining that the industry in general has been very supportive of women. Still, she shared that fewer than 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs, and women still hold fewer than half of boardroom seats.

"I acknowledge that I stand on the shoulders of the women who came before me, although I know we need to keep developing more women in leadership roles and break the mold of what the classic profile of leadership looks like,” Piepszak said. “While there may be a lot more women [in a company], they are often in support positions.”

Dr. Siegel asked how women — particularly young women coming out of college — should be encouraged to take on leadership positions. Piepszak replied that encouraging any group must begin with a company culture that prioritizes diversity of opinions and backgrounds. 

Just as important: Holding women to the same standard as men. Said Piepszak, “And it’s not enough to simply hire more women. Make sure you’re identifying the leaders within the company who are developing their talent.” She followed with the advice that women need to work on finding their voices in a room full of people. “We need to grow our confidence, and the best way to do that is to get outside of your comfort zone. We need to learn how to influence a room.” Surround yourself by people who are smarter than you, and who therefore motivate you to learn more, she said.

While finance is an obvious academic major for anyone hoping to work on Wall Street, the choice of a college major is not that important, said Piepszak. She noted that there are plenty of history, marketing, and sociology majors, as well as attorneys, at JPMorgan Chase.  

“That’s just what we tell our students,” said Dr. Siegel. “We emphasize that they can take their education and run with it in so many different directions.”

Asked by Dean Li what it takes to be successful in a complex position, Piepszak noted simply that nothing replaces hard work. She then added, “You also need to be intellectually curious, to acknowledge that you still have a lot to learn, and to be trusted by the people you work with. I rely on others to tell me what I need to be focused on, and that trust works both ways.” 

The Fairfield Dolan Dean’s Executive Forum series engages thought leaders in discussions on issues that impact business and society. Piepszak’s talk coincided with Fairfield’s celebration of 50 years of women on campus. The final talk in the series will be held virtually on Thursday, April 15, 2021 with Hugh Davis '95, President of Dynata.

Tags:  Dolan School,  Top Stories

Last modified: 06-23-21 2:11 PM

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