Aubrey M. Christ, QKA, QPFC
President, The Retirement (k)oncierge Group
How did you find out about WIPN? East Chapter Chair Pam Brooks, introduced me to WIPN a few years ago. She invited me to a local chapter event, and I was hooked! When I tell other women about WIPN, I say it is a group of women looking to promote each other, build alliances, network, be innovative, share best practices, and provide advice about how to balance their personal and professional lives.
Is WIPN a force for change? Yes, WIPN is a force of change. As companies in our industry evaluate how to best meet their diversity and inclusion goals, having a professional women’s networking group such as WIPN ensures there is a pipeline of diverse qualified candidates at all levels. WIPN looks for ways to strengthen our experience, skills and promote our economic development.
Please share a WIPN-inspired story that influenced your professional career. Shortly after I started getting involved with WIPN, the local chapter held an event that featured a presentation on employee engagement and gratitude. The presenter offered strategies that we could use as leaders in our organizations to energize talent and she also provided ideas for us as individuals on how to better manage daily challenges. This event influenced not only my leadership/management style but also how I approach and manage difficult situations.
What prompted you to step forward to become a WIPN chapter chair? I really enjoy the networking and development aspect of this group. Moving into a chapter chair role allows me to continue to meet new people, enjoy WIPN, learn from other members, and actively contribute to planning the local chapter events.
My favorite quote is … “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – John D. Rockafeller. I like this quote because it encourages people to not settle; to do things that they feel passionate about and lead to a sense of accomplishment and contentment.
Carolyn Lemke Fraser
Head of Internal Sales, Retirement Distribution at Ascensus
What compelled you to step forward to become a WIPN chapter chair? I’m really looking forward to being a WIPN chapter chair as I want to play a larger role in influencing the future of the Philadelphia chapter and to work more closely with the powerful women WIPN. Roberta Hess and Patrice Churnetski have done an incredible job getting the chapter to an amazing place and I’m really looking forward to carrying the torch to our next level of success.
When did you first hear about WIPN? I found out about WIPN when I started working at Ascensus five years ago. I was looking for a way to get involved with meeting and supporting women within my new company and the industry as I was taking on a new role. I didn’t initially take full advantage of all that WIPN has to offer but now I know that WIPN is an organization that connects women in the retirement industry who are looking to meet like-minded, hard-working professionals who want to make a positive impact in their careers, on the careers of others, and across the whole industry.
Is WIPN a force for change? 100% – WIPN is a force for change. The recent WIPN research is a perfect example of the impact women have on the retirement industry and has highlighted so many opportunities for our industry to support the efforts to influence positive change. By bringing the impact of negotiation skills, networking, career pathing, and work-life balance to the forefront, we all have the information we need to know better so we can do better. I love that WIPN has taken the reigns to gather this research and look forward to watching it influence the future of women 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? Being a role model to the upcoming generations is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. Personally, I have 2 great examples to follow as I grew up with an extremely strong mom and grandmother, both of whom led our family through some tough times. Now, I have 2 younger sisters and 4 nieces, and I want to be an example to them by making sure they know that with grit, determination and support, the sky is the limit.
I know that it’s important to work hard and be a good corporate citizen to become the leader, colleague, friend and peer that you want to be, and I also have an appreciation for the impact of what I do, and how I do it, and how that impact affects the women around me. Whether it’s acknowledging a job well done, being a mentor, or crushing a presentation – women in all phases of their career are watching. Knowing that gives me extra energy to kick it up one more notch, to be an example of what can happen when you work hard.
My favorite quote is … “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better,” Maya Angelou. I’ve been referencing this quote a lot lately whether it’s around becoming more skilled in our jobs, appreciating how there are things in life that don’t come with a playbook, or when learning about the critically important aspects of DE&I – all the time realizing I have a lot more to learn so I know better. Personally, professionally, socially, globally – we all have so much to learn and I truly hope we keep open minds and look for the opportunities to know better so we can do better for those around us.
Shawnda Sparks, (CRPC®)
Wealth Advisor at Perspective Financial Group
What changes do you hope to see for women in the retirement industry in the next 5 – 10 years? My hope for women in the retirement industry in the next 5-10 years is that more women will arm themselves with a support system such as WIPN that will provide them with guidance, information and comradery. That women will push for better positions and break free from the service roles that many feel stuck in! That we will see our own worth and stand up to the leaders who struggle to see the value in our relationship-building skills. Women have been battling uphill for many years and now more than ever before I see that hill starting to level out. We must keep striving for more, reaching for our goals, seeing our own value, and making the necessary changes to reach those goals. Keep thriving ladies!
How important is it for you to be a role model for the upcoming generations of women in the retirement industry? Being a role model is at the top of my priority list. The retirement industry has made great strides in recent years, but we still have many strides left to take! As a young woman attempting to select my forever career path, I had no knowledge of the retirement industry. In college I met a woman who was a financial advisor. Through her I learned of a world that previously was foreign to me. I fell in love with the relationships that were able to be created and the guidance that I was able to provide to her clientele as I began to work as her assistant. For over a decade I struggled to move out of an administrative role and into the roll of an advisor. Now I am a partner in a firm and enjoy every moment of what I do. So many women feel stuck because of the hours, the pay, the benefits, I want other women to know, to see, that there is more and that they should never settle for less than what they are capable of!
Prior to joining WIPN — how difficult was it to find mentoring opportunities in the retirement industry? Almost impossible! Many of the groups that I have participated in previously were all lead by men and while one of my greatest mentors is my male business partner, women need the knowledge and wisdom from each other. Other groups were not industry-specific, again, while those groups have brought great benefits to myself and my career, it is impossible to know how a person feels or what they are going through or have gone through without putting yourself in their shoes. Only women in the retirement industry who are mentoring other women in the retirement industry can do that!
My favorite quote is …“The best view comes after the hardest climb,” because the climb is where you find the value, where you learn the lessons that will get your through the challenges that you face. Happiness requires struggle and it grows from our problems. Living a fulfilling life has to be earned, it does not sprout from anything. The climb may be difficult at times, but once you finish it and you reach your destination, the view is always full of joy!
What compelled you to step forward to become a WIPN chapter chair? I joined WIPN just as COVID was shutting us down in 2020. In a world of seclusion, I needed something, I needed people in my life even if it was virtual. WIPN was a community that provided me with people, people who were experiencing the same struggles that I was. In 2021 I was given the opportunity to join the event committee in my region. Event planning is one of my favorite hobbies so I jumped at the opportunity. Shortly afterwards I was given the opportunity to become a chapter chair – how could I resist? This organization is moving mountains with women in the retirement industry and I am excited to take on a more active role in moving those mountains!