Member Spotlight

March 2021 Member Spotlight

Michelle Gibilisco

Director of Business Development – Retirement Services, Mutual of Omaha

What changes do you hope to see for women in the retirement industry in the next 5 years?

I would like to see more females getting into the industry. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 15.7% of financial sales representatives are women. As we work to meet the growing needs of a more diverse population, that number will have to increase. I also believe it’s important we recognize this industry as a viable career option for young women entering the workforce. Building relationships, mentoring and educating each other and helping recruit a diverse workforce will change the landscape of the employees in the retirement industry.

How important is it for you to be a role model for the upcoming generations of women in the retirement industry? 

Very important. I have been lucky to have many male ally’s support me in my career. That said, most of my career has been dominated by men. I’ve attended many conferences and sat in many meetings when I was the only, or one of a few women in the room – that can be intimidating. The past year has been the first time the females on our Mutual of Omaha Retirement Services leadership team outnumber the men. I think it’s important to be a role model and advocate for each other in this industry and in general.

How did you find out about WIPN? And, how would you describe WIPN to a peer or colleague?

I started seeing WIPN at industry conferences a few years back and then began to know some of the members through networking events. This year Mutual of Omaha became a sponsor and it has been fantastic to connect with all the women in our industry. Most of us have less than 6 degrees of separation and have worked with many of the same individuals in the industry. It’s great to connect and leverage these relationships to grow careers and business.

How do you see WIPN affecting positive change in your career?

I think it’s those relationships that we build together. Helping each other network and share industry knowledge. This industry can be tricky when you first enter and having this network of women to help you navigate gives you a leg up. Many of the women on my team are building better networks through the virtual peer networking and we’re seeing some new relationships take place because of the discussions.

My favorite quote is … Here’s to strong women: May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them!

My mom was a strong woman who worked her way up the corporate ladder with no college degree and I’m also a mother of a 10-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy. I work hard to show them that they can both be and do whatever they want in this world.

Michelle Gibilisco

Apryl Pope, CFP®, CPFA

Partner, Retirement Plan Partners, LLP

What changes do you hope to see for women in the retirement industry in the next 5 years?

First off, I hope to see more of us in the industry, more specifically women of color. When attending traditional industry conferences, we as women seek each other out, but there are not enough of us. For us to continue to grow in this space, I would hope to see pathways to help support women of color who want to enter our industry.

How did you find out about WIPN? How would you describe WIPN to a peer or colleague?

I was sitting at a table with a WIPN member at one of our LPL conferences and she was telling me about the different events that WIPN offered. This was the first time I’d heard of WIPN, so when I went back to my room that night, I signed up. I would describe WIPN as an organization of like-minded women in the retirement plan industry who provide support, networking opportunities and valuable content.

I love the retirement industry because … EVERYONE needs to retire one day! I love the fact that I am able to work with day-to-day employees helping them prepare for retirement. By being a planner for the whole workplace plan, I’m able to provide financial wellness support and guidance to people who probably would have never worked with a planner. This is exciting to me because we are able to help a large audience who really need some guidance, whether it be tips for budgeting, a plan to get out of debt, or simply explaining how their 529 plan or HSA benefit works.

Prior to joining WIPN — how difficult (or easy) was it to find networking and/or mentoring opportunities in the retirement industry?

Outside of WiPN, the only other networking and mentoring opportunities in our industry that I was aware of or attended were those of WiRC through NAPA. I found my mentor through the NAPA thrive program and have been plugged into that network ever since.

My favorite quote is … Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is one of my favorite quotes because it applies to so many areas in life, whether it be socio-economic status, education or pay equality, it rings true for everything. Also, it reminds us that just because the problem may not be right in our backyard or in our home, it still affects us and we should do something about it.

Apryl Pope

Jessica Gring

Client Engagement Manager – Retirement Advisory Relations
T.Rowe Price Investment Services

How did you find out about WIPN? And, how would you describe WIPN to a peer or colleague? I found out about WIPN through colleagues at T. Rowe Price and was immediately interested in an organization that would make me build connections with other females in the industry. To those unfamiliar with the organization, I would describe WIPN as a community of females in the retirement industry that are willing to share their experiences and encourage their peers to achieve success both personally and professionally.

I love the retirement industry because… I believe the work I do every day has a meaningful impact. I have the opportunity to directly contribute to the success of T. Rowe Price. And at the same time, I’m putting the plan participants in a position to be prepared for their retirement – something that is so important. Research from the 2021 Retirement Insecurity Report published by the National Institute on Retirement Security states that more than half of Americans are concerned about achieving financial security in retirement and more than two-thirds say the U.S. faces a retirement crisis. I believe that we are positioned to help plan participants address this challenge and I’m excited to be a part of the solution.

How important is it for you to be a role model for the upcoming generations of women in the retirement industry? Extremely important! Being in the beginning stages of my career, I have been so fortunate to have others show me the way and I want to pay that forward to future generations. In the coming years, I hope that we continue to see more women in roles that were once dominated by our male colleagues. When I graduated from college, I was unsure where I wanted to take my career and because of an introduction through a friend, I started my career taking inbound calls at T. Rowe. Through the connections I built along the way, I became aware of the client facing opportunities at the firm and have found a job I love. Sometimes, I think those just starting out in their careers aren’t familiar with the opportunity set available to them, or are intimidated by the industry, and I think it’s important we continue to educate and be role models for those upcoming generations.       

Prior to joining WIPN — how difficult was it to find networking and/or mentoring opportunities in the retirement industry? I’ve been at T. Rowe since graduating from college and have valued building relationships with my female co-workers. Everyone is very willing to share their expertise, successes and challenges. However, I struggled with meeting females in the retirement industry outside of the company. WIPN was the missing link – I’m so thankful for the introduction. The virtual events have been great, but I look forward to the day when we can hold in-person events again!

One of my favorite quotes is “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike” from Maya Angelou’s Human Family Poem.

More than ever, I think it’s important for everyone to set aside their differences and see each other as human. Everyone is dealing with their own struggles, which you may or may be aware of, so I strive to give everyone the respect they deserve.

Jessica Gring

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