Career Advice from DFC’s Women in Leadership

As a Government agency committed to advancing women’s economic empowerment around the world, U.S. International Development Finance Institution (DFC) also strives to empower the women inside the organization.

Women comprise half of DFC’s leadership and span all departments from portfolio management to loan origination, legal affairs, external affairs, and human resources. This strong representation of female leadership has helped guide DFC’s successful track record of investing in development around the world, and reaching some of the most underserved communities, including women. DFC’s 2X Women’s Initiative has to date catalyzed more than $7 billion to projects that are economically empowering women in the developing world.

On the occasion of Women’s History Month, we asked some of those leaders to share their best career advice.

Lynn Nguyen

“Any young or older person who cares about the reasons for the economic disparities across the globe should investigate a career in development finance.”

Mary Mervenne

“Pick a path of interest and work really hard to be an expert in that field.”

Alison Germak

“I’d encourage more listening — to peers, new colleagues, customers, etc. Good listening — for both what’s said and what’s left unsaid — can clarify a problem, uncover a solution, or simply build stronger trust in relationships.”

Carla Chissell

“Get out of your comfort zone and do something that challenges you. Don’t be afraid to be a trail blazer. Try different careers until you find something you like.”

Debra Erb

“I usually tell people to immerse themselves in emerging markets — either through volunteer work, attending conferences, networking, getting involved inside projects to gain direct experience with emerging markets projects. I think work experience in developing countries is very important because it’s impossible to understand the complexity through books and coursework.”

Sarah Fandell

“Think critically about your natural abilities and preferences. Then hone the skills you can bring to the themes and issues about which you are passionate.”

Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen

“I attribute my professional success to having mentors along the way — trusted advisors who have offered support and pointed me in the right direction. Never stop seeking inputs from colleagues, clients, and friends.”

Algene Sajery

“Many high performing professional women, especially early in their careers, are often in a state of doing — constantly checking things off a to-do list to achieve their goals. But in this state, we can lose sight of our purpose. If you can relate to this, my advice is to make time each day to check in with yourself. Ask yourself — ‘Did I like what I did today? Did it inspire me? Am I happy? Am I working on issues that reflect my values?’ You will be amazed by the opportunities that will come your way once you institute that simple practice.

Also — know that you are enough. The space that you create for yourself is absolutely unique. Your experience, your perspective has value. Be your authentic self and give yourself the respect you demand of others. Use your unique perspective—your diversity—as a source of grit. Know that you are there for a reason. Nobody can take your place.”

U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. Investing in development and advancing U.S. foreign policy. Twitter: @DFCgov