Kasey Gartner meets with students as part of a Terry Women's Initiative event.
Kasey Gartner meets with students as part of a Terry Women's Initiative event.

What do you do when you’re a woman in a competitive, male-dominated industry? If you’re Kasey Gartner (BBA ’03), you blaze a trail to the top – and stay there.

Gartner, a financial planner with Northwestern Mutual and small business owner, spoke to a group of students over lunch as part of the Terry Women’s Initiative. A standout student while at Terry, Gartner has been named a NAIFA Top Advisor Under 40, a Top Female Advisor, and earned the Northwestern Mutual Commitment to Excellence Award, among other honors.

Throughout a career marked by an indomitable dedication to education, Gartner has exceeded expectations and tenaciously gone after her personal goals. Those include being the first associate at her firm to get a Series Seven license, earning an MBA in two years of night school, getting her CFP and ChFC, and many more.

At each turn, she fought against pressure to stay where she is and do things the old-fashioned way.

“There’s a lot going on in my life. I’m married, I have a child, I own my own business, and I’m so professionally fulfilled,” she said. “When I sit across from a client, they’ll tell me, ‘You really love what you do.’ And I do, but most people don’t. You’re probably not going to love the first place you go, and that’s OK.”

She advised students to understand that differences make them valuable in the job market.

“There’s a lot of diversity and inclusion stuff going on right now. People want to hire minorities, they want to hire women,” she said. “Don’t think of it like Affirmative Action. Our marketplace is not a bunch of white men anymore. It’s just not. So our businesses need to reflect how the marketplace looks now. Being a woman doesn’t preclude you from getting jobs the way it once did.”

That doesn’t mean the playing field is even, however.

“Women are not taught the power of networking and making connections until you need them, and by that point it’s too late,” she said. “Men, they’re 5-years-old out on that little league field and they’re networking and making connections. It’s that whole boys club. That’s something that I wish I had an awareness of when I was in high school and college.”

“We all have the same 24 hours in the day, but there are all these demands on our time. So how do we handle all of that? It’s important for you to meet people and get to know people and for them to know you,” she said. “But when you say yes to something, you’re saying no something else. So when I said yes to an event last night, I was saying no to putting my son to bed. I try not to do that a lot. And I think that if I’d built up more of a network earlier, before I had a husband and kids, maybe I wouldn’t feel so compelled to do it.”

Gartner’s job is to help busy professionals reach their financial goals. It’s a position that requires trust. For her, that means being genuine and truly caring about her work and her clients.

“There are a lot of people who do what I do. There’s going to be a lot of people who do what you will do. Why are they going to hire you? Why will they want to work with you? It’s because they like you. It’s because they know you care,” she said. “I have all these letters after my name, but people don’t’ care how much I know. They care how much I care.”