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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!

 

Should You Join a Local Professionals Group ? 

2018-12-06
The 4 Most Common Causes of Physician Burnout in 2018

This is Part II of our three-part research series with LeverageRx, an online financial marketplace exclusively for doctors.   Changes in healthcare often have a domino effect on employees and patients. The medical profession has to evolve and change to share the latest in medical findings. But what if those changes cause the people that patients depend on to burnout? Recent changes in the industry are taking a serious toll on physicians. Medscape’s annual Physician Lifestyle Report surveyed more than 15,000 physicians from 29 specialties. Of survey respondents, 42% of physicians reported burnout.   Could change in the healthcare industry be boosting the number of physicians who experience burnout? What factors could be contributing to physician burnout?Let's take a closer look at the four most common causes of physician burnout in 2018.  

Relationships

Mergers and acquisitions are on the rise in healthcare. In fact, they were up 57% in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period of 2017 per The Wall Street Journal.   Nowadays, it can be rare to find a physician who isn’t practicing within a large healthcare group. Due to the rising costs of owning your own practice, joining a healthcare system may seem like a no-brainer. For physicians, it means less to worry about when it comes to things like:  
  • New technology.
  • Medical equipment.
  • Insurance.
  But does joining a healthcare system alleviate physician burnout? Or could it actually be adding to it?   On one hand, these large healthcare systems can be a great fit for physicians:  
  • With no time to run their own practice.
  • Looking to take on less risk.
  On the other hand, large healthcare systems can be a source of stress for patients. And that patient stress often ends up taking a toll on their physician.   Healthcare systems tend to increase efficiency by utilizing multiple locations and specialties. For patients, this may have removed the basic comforts of seeing a local physician. Instead of calling the office’s front desk, patients pass through large, automated phone systems. Other factors that may cause stress for ill patients seeking treatment include changes in:  
  • Location.
  • Hours of operation.
  • In-network insurance.
  As physicians advance in their careers, their workload grows. This often times means they can no longer communicate with patients like they once could. The endless chase for answers can cause damage to the relationship a physician may have spent years building.   33% of physicians surveyed said that they're easily exasperated with patients. 32% said they are less engaged with patients due to physician burnout.   Could this loss of loyalty be adding to physician burnout?  

Loyalty

  When patients lack loyalty to physicians, this causes a lack of enthusiasm for physicians. Patient loyalty may decrease due to the healthcare system and the absence of a personal touch.   An underlying reason for the lack of patient loyalty to physicians is insurance. For patients and healthcare systems, coverage is subject to constant change. As of 2018, many health systems see this as a concern for their business. As a result, many have transitioned from volume-based care to value-based care. Utilizing a value-based strategy should help health systems rebuild lost patient relationships. Value-based care restores relationships by offering patients easier communication and more convenience. This shift to a value-based strategy will affect physicians in several ways, including:  
  • An increasing focus on technology.
  • A more holistic approach to health in the community.
  Due in part to this lagging patient loyalty, physicians do not receive the praise they once did. For most physicians, the reward they seek goes beyond their paycheck. Patient approval justifies their hard work as time well spent. This attitude shift toward the medical profession raises concerns when considering the results of a recent Prophet/GE study. It found a staggering 81 percent of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience.  

Emphasis on Profits

  For many healthcare systems, a value-based strategy may cause additional physician burnout. This strategy requires physicians to perform more administrative tasks, which takes away from patient care.   For example, if testing is required under this type of strategy, it would be imperative to explain as to why the additional testing is needed. Not only is there more paperwork that falls on the responsibility of physicians, but there could be less staffed physicians. In addition, health systems routinely only contract with a percentage of physicians of one type of specialty. This lack of staff depth leads to:  
  • Longer regular working hours.
  • More overtime hours.
  • More on-call duties.
  The medical profession already faces a great deal of pressure and stress. Add to this a lack of work-life balance, and naturally, they are at a greater risk for depression and burnout.   Health systems are often for-profit based organizations. Like any industry, the desire to drive bottom lines is huge.   According to the 2018 Medscape compensation report, physician salaries have been on a steady incline. Supply and demand for physicians is as strong as ever. But for physicians who feel overworked and undervalued, the minor salary bump may not be enough. According to the Medscape National Burnout & Depression Report of 2018, here are the top three contributing factors:  
  1. Too many bureaucratic tasks (paperwork) – 56%
  2. Spending too many hours at work – 39%
  3. Insufficient compensation – 24%
 

Student Loan Debt

  Physicians illustrate a concern for financial wellness.   To pursue a career in medicine, most need student loans to finance their education. In turn, seventy-five percent of medical school graduates begin practice with debt. What's worse is that the average medical school grad carries $192,000 in debt. It’s no surprise that the burden to pay off these loans can cause extreme financial strain for young physicians. And although many overcome to lead successful careers, some never fully recover.   According to the Medscape Physician Wealth and Debt Report of 2018, most school loans are paid off by age 50. Thirty-two percent of physicians surveyed were still paying down their own student loan debt from medical school.   With so many physicians paying down student loan debt, it's no wonder their financial outlook is unique. More money for student loan payments means less money for lifestyle spending and retirement planning. This financial stress extends beyond large monthly payments, too. It also impacts their experience as first-time homebuyers.   In addition to the long hours physicians typically work, they now have little money to add to their budgets. In fact, 24% of physicians in the Medscape survey said that insufficient compensation contributed to their burnout. And when asked what could be done to reduce burnout, 35% said: “increase compensation to avoid financial stress."   In a large healthcare system, it can be tough to stand out. Most CFOs are not closely involved with physicians. This lack of engagement means physicians are less likely to get the financial resources they need. Most raises and bonuses in large healthcare systems come at a preset rate or a generic structure. As a physician, refinancing student loans can offer significant cost savings.   Depending on the repayment plan, this is possible both:  
  • Over the life of the loan.
  • On a monthly basis.
  Large health systems should consider offering student loan debt assistance to physicians and other employees.  

Key takeaways

  Like student loan debt, physician burnout is a crisis affecting the healthcare industry today. Based on our research, the former is actually fueling the latter. But that's not the only culprit. Other leading causes include:  
  • Less meaningful relationships.
  • A decline in patient loyalty.
  • Profits over work-life balance.
  The healthcare industry is subject to constant change. Although advancements in medicine are needed, they should not overshadow those who provide care. Prioritizing the personal and financial well-being of physicians is the first step to overcoming the burnout crisis.  

9 Signs it’s Time to Refinance Student Loan Debt

  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.
Intern making a good impression in front of coworkers
2018-11-12
How to Turn Your Internship into a Full-Time Career

Congratulations! You’ve got an internship and you want to get the best return on the time invested there - you want a job. Get your career started, make some real money and start paying off those student loans. By simply having an internship you’ve increased your chances because companies often hire the interns they like. What separates the interns they hire from the ones they don’t? We’ve got a few tips here to help you keep your foot in the door.  

Be more than present.

  There’s a balance between knowing when to speak up and when not to, but for the most part, it’s better to speak than to not. Be part of the conversation in meetings. Ask questions and throw out your opinion when appropriate. There’s nothing more unattractive to a potential employer than an intern that does little more than take oxygen out of the room.  

Figure out where you can help.

  Try and be a part of the team. Sometimes a company has a well-established intern program. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes employees are too busy to find things for you to do. The best thing to do is find out how you can contribute. When you notice someone is overwhelmed, see how you can help. Having made someone's day easier and more productive can really help set you apart when management decides what if any interns are hired.  

Get to know people.

  Interns can often fly under the radar at a workplace. You should make a concerted effort to get to know people and what they do. If at the end of your time, most people around the office don’t even know your name, that’s going to really lessen your chances of getting an offer. That’s why it’s important to try to make an impression outside of the couple of people you normally come into contact with.  

If you’re fetching coffee - do it well.

  Sometimes being an intern can mean doing somewhat menial tasks like getting lunch or coffee, setting up for meetings, or running errands. Whatever the task, do them well. Often employers will have interns do these things to see how competent and enthusiastic they are. If you do it well, you’ll probably get more important tasks. Conversely, if you are only getting coffee and that’s all they ever want you for, it might not be the best place to work.  

Put the phone down.

  Be active and engaged at the internship. Don’t pull out your phone to go through social streams or answer emails. Even if you see other people in a meeting do it. It’s a bad habit that many of us have, and if you want them to know you care about what is going on you’ll avoid it.  

Ask Questions

  As an intern, it can be tough to stand out. By asking questions to your supervisor or while in a meeting it’ll help to make you stand out. In addition, you’ll learn more about the industry or topic being discussed. Don’t be afraid to ask a question if you need clarity.  

Think for yourself.

  Employers want to see that you can solve problems. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions. But at least try and figure things out beforehand. Sometimes a good Google search can do a lot. Whatever you do, don’t avoid the task because you couldn’t figure out how to do it.  

Don’t just punch the clock.

  If you really want to show people you want to be there, don’t head for the door at the first possible minute every day. Come in early and stay late from time to time. Show people you’re not just there because you have to be, but because you want to be.  

Make sure it’s the right fit.

  Don’t just take a job to take a job. It probably won’t be good for the company or your career. An internship is a great way for you to learn about a business or industry. It’s also a way for a company to evaluate you, but you should also be doing an evaluation. By the end of your time there if it doesn’t feel right, look for something else. Your internship experience may help you get a job someplace better suited to you.  

Set Goals for Yourself

  Being an intern, there really aren’t any expectations as to what you can do. Be sure to do your best and set personal goals for yourself. Goal setting will help to keep you busy even when there may not be work provided to you. Setting personal goals is a great habit to start and will help you as you further your career.   Regardless of the industry, your internship may be in - be sure to work hard. Hard work pays off as the old saying states. Hard work is just one part of everything that we’ve touched on here, but all of these habits are needed. The younger you can start these habits the better off you will be moving forward. If your internship doesn’t turn into a full-time job opportunity don’t be too disappointed and use it as a stepping stone. If you didn’t like your internship and you were offered a job, be sure to think it over. You don’t want to be working at a job you aren’t happy with. Good luck with your continued professional journey!    

Resume Tips from Hiring Managers

   
Woman working at home
2018-11-07
5 Benefits Millennials Look For in Employers

Millennial employees are known for changing jobs faster than other generations, so it’s no wonder Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually. But instead of writing off this segment of employees, many companies are looking at what drives people in this generation to join a company, and how can you keep the younger allstars once they’re on your team? Many Millennials have college degrees with varied backgrounds and experiences, they’re loyal to causes they care about and connected in their communities. Keeping top talent is a key business driver for success, but there are some things you might not know that Millennials are looking for in employers.  

Opportunity for Advancement

Millennials don’t want to get into one position and stay there forever. After seeing their loyal parents ousted from companies during the recession, young employees know not to settle and let skills stagnate. They might even leave for other opportunities, but you can attract and retain the best of them by offering development opportunities and continuing education. Millennials want to know that they can grow with the company and they won’t get stuck in one position. As a matter of fact, 59% of Millennials say this is extremely important to them.  

The State of Student Loan Debt in America Today 

 

Support

Nothing is more frustrating than working in a space or with a team that doesn’t support you. Millennials want to be somewhere that they feel supported. Whether that’s the right computer for their job, a sit-to-stand desk, ergonomic work chair, or regular check-ins from leadership, support is crucial.  

Work-Life Balance

Most would say it is not considered admirable to work a 60-hour workweek or to skip using your vacation time, because you’re that valuable. Millennial employees have no interest in being the first to the office and the last to leave because a work-life balance has become a mantra for this generation. Keep in mind these young workers had parents who were not as available for family time, and they are choosing instead to spend more time with their families or to disconnect from work to recharge their batteries. Since everyone is reachable through digital tools 24/7 getting away from the office and finding other ways to put work-life balance in harmony is crucial to avoiding burnout and keeping the best talent.  

Recognition and Feedback

Some people balk at the Millennials for having gotten participation trophies as kids, but the result is this generation likes to be recognized for good work and need more feedback to feel secure. Whereas a typical Baby Boomer might be happy assuming things are fine if they aren’t getting criticism, a Millennial would likely want regular status updates from their boss. They usually want to be doing things that are meaningful and helping the team progress, so things like a weekly meeting or quick one-on-one session to talk about goals can really go a long way to helping your top Millennial talent stay engaged. Plus, giving your Millennial employees props for their good work can be more effective than other types of perks or bonuses. 68% of Millennials said they’d prefer being personally called out for their efforts.  

Meaningful Perks

It’s a common misconception that all you need to attract and retain Millennials are things like pizza parties and bean bag chairs. In reality, they want more meaningful perks than this. Time off means more to them than raises because they’re driven to see the world and connect with other cultures. Options like bonuses that go straight to their student loans or more competitive benefits packages can be the difference between staying at your company or jumping ship for a competitor.  

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