In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re raising a glass to all of the women who keep things running smoothly here at 90+ Cellars. And when it comes to fearless female leaders, look no further than our CFO, Maria Gagliardi.
Research shows that while nearly half of financial services employees are women, at the executive level, it's only about 15%. So if you're looking to feel inspired this IWD, check out our Q&A with Maria to learn how she rose through the ranks in finance, as well as why she loves working in wine.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you landed at 90+ Cellars?
Those who knew me very young would be the first to tell you I wasn't the creative type. But if you asked me to do math or solve a brain teaser, I was the first at the table. That pattern continued through my academics and led me to complete my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Babson College - a local Massachusetts business/entrepreneurship college - with a major in Finance.
Developing a career is overwhelming, and the biggest challenge can be finding the right fit. I’ve held finance positions across organizations ranging from a small startup to a $3 billion business, because for me, it was important to understand the dynamics of companies of various sizes to assess my preference. I previously spent five years at Iron Mountain, where I built a great relationship with one of their senior vice presidents who later introduced me to 90+ Cellars.
What attracted you to the wine & spirits business?
I am a first generation Italian-American whose parents were born in a small village in Southern Italy. I quickly learned there are traditions you don't give up despite moving to a new country, one of them being my father’s winemaking hobby. It has been 45 years since he moved to Boston and it has been 45 years of winemaking for our family, with many more years to come. When the CFO position opened up at 90+, I was immediately attracted to it. What could be better than providing financial leadership in an industry for which I have a genuine passion?
What do you like best about working with so many women here at 90+ Cellars?
I take a lot of pride working with so many talented women at our Boston head office and in our salesforce. When it comes to accomplishing goals, the women here at 90+ Cellars are organized and terrific collaborators. And when it comes to building a solid workplace, the feminine touch and skills like empathy, intuition and optimism of women are tremendously beneficial.
Why do you think it can be difficult for women to reach executive roles in finance?
Having children, hands down. I was cautioned by fellow colleagues, my own mom and close friends at how quickly things change. But of course I didn't believe them. That is, until the day my daughter was born. She was a preemie, arriving seven weeks early, which I of course was not prepared for either personally or professionally. It became evident almost immediately that ten hour work days were no longer in my future. Thankfully, I had an incredibly supportive husband and family that eased my panic and allowed me to see that being a good mom and maintaining a fulfilling career is doable.
What advice would you give someone (especially a woman) who wants to be a financial exec?
Be honest, be ethical and be appreciative. Having a strong team is the foundation necessary to be a strong leader and executive. It is important to empower your team and fellow colleagues, and most of all, acknowledge their hard work and dedication.
What works best for you when it comes to balancing work and family?
Successfully balancing work and family relies heavily on a supportive employer. As much as I was excited to join the wine industry, I was even more impressed with our CEO’s awareness and encouragement for work/life balance. Having flexibility has been incredibly helpful as we work remotely and navigate new schedules.