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  • Writer's pictureJenise Fretz

Boss Lady Spotlight: Tanya Castle 👸🎤

Tanya Castle has made it her mission to empower women to take control of their finances by creating LadyInvestors, a female investing group

Women’s rights advocate, Tanya Castle, spent much of her early professional life fighting to advance the cause of women in the developing world. While abroad in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and Asia, she developed an affinity that transformed into a love of investing. What started as a personal financial commitment to increase the power of her own money, soon became a new way to contribute to her long-time passion of women’s empowerment. Three years ago, Tanya created LadyInvestors, after returning to her home country of Canada after nearly a decade abroad. The group aims to connect women to learn about and discuss all things money and investing. Her mission is to empower women with knowledge, helping them foster financial independence. “Gloria Steinem said a woman doesn’t have full emancipation until she has full financial control, and I truly believe that,” Tanya says.

Tanya took an unconventional path to become the uber savvy investor she is today. She is a worldly person whose mission of helping and elevating women actualized through her extensive and impressive travels and social justice work. “I feel very passionately about advancing the cause of women and making sure they get their voice and place in the world,” she says. In university she studied journalism and did a journalism internship in Ecuador where she worked at a small newspaper and lived in a single indigenous headed household and became passionate about women’s rights. After her graduation, she bounced to Rwanda as a journalist and then to Cameroon to champion human rights. Tanya then journeyed to Paris to receive her Masters in International Relations. However, she was not away from Africa for long as upon graduating, she traveled to the Congo leveraging her media expertise for peace building. Her next move was to serve as a public information officer for the United Nations in Kosovo which solidified her resolve to fully pursue advocating women’s rights and female empowerment.

"I feel very passionately about advancing the cause of women and making sure they get their voice and place in the world."

Following her passion, she moved back to her home country of Canada to join an organization with a mission to end violence against women. As meaningful as her work in Canada was, she realized her efforts were not finished in the developing world, and so, she moved to Yemen to work for a women’s health organization specializing in maternal health and family planning. Her last posts were in Kenya where she facilitated access to safe menstrual hygiene products, and Nepal where she assisted in earthquake relief before moving back to Canada.

While in Kenya, Tanya’s motivation to invest stemmed from a change in her financial situation. She had always done well in keeping on top of her finances and was able to pay off her student debt (about $50,000) a year ahead of schedule. She wondered what she should do with the money that she had contributed to her loan payment each month. Tanya decided to try her hand at investing the extra money. “I began investing in the Kenyan stock exchange and then from there I sort of wet my chops, got a little bit comfortable with reading the business news, seeing stocks go up and down, and researching companies.” However, it wasn't necessarily a quick and easy transition into investing. Tanya admits it took a bit of encouragement from a couple key men in her life who helped her build up her self-confidence with investing. She considers these men, both ex-boyfriends of hers, to have played a pivotal role in getting her into investing.

As much as she was learning in Kenya, Tanya was still a bit hesitant about how she would proceed with investing once she finished her work abroad and migrated back to Canada. However, one day, she found herself sitting next to an older man at a hotel bar in Nepal. Realizing they were fellow Canadians, they began to chat. He brought up investing as it was his life’s work and Tanya was immediately intrigued. She shared her experience thus far and admitted her uncertainty with investing more seriously in the Canadian market once she returned home. This man rejected her reluctance to invest, telling Tanya: “you’re more than capable to do this in Canada. You’re smart, you have the skill set, and you’re a learner, just go forth.” This was the third man that encouraged her to invest and he was the final push she needed to get her to take the plunge into active personal investing. She was motivated to transform herself into an intelligent investor and to give the markets a real shot in Canada.

Back in Canada, Tanya dove head first into investing and was hooked right away. She had a natural affinity for it and the more she learned, the more interested she became. She felt proud of what she was able to accomplish for herself, but Tanya had never been someone who was solely concerned with personal success. She understood the power of her own knowledge and what that knowledge could mean if distributed to other women around the world. “My interest in finance really stems from my deep belief in the importance of empowering women through financial literacy and really controlling the purse strings,” she explains. During her time abroad, she observed first-hand how the lack of financial control and knowledge among women perpetuated gender inequality. However, it wasn't just in developing countries that she witnessed the financial knowledge gap between men and women. Upon returning to Canada, her friend told her about her retired mother-in-law who had to go back to work after finding out her recently deceased husband had left their finances in shambles. “I saw a few other women be put in situations like that. Women who were put in tough spots and had to learn late in life because they didn’t know that their husband had not saved or had been mismanaging the family money for quite some time,” Tanya says. Seeing others be burned by financial ignorance, sparked a passion in her to share her knowledge with other women.

"My interest in finance really stems from my deep belief in the importance of empowering women through financial literacy and really controlling the purse strings."

Tanya’s next adventure brought her to: Montreal. New to town, she sought a way to make friends. Because she was so into investing at the time, she thought it would be ideal if she could meet people that shared that interest. She imagined a community of like-minded individuals bouncing investing ideas off each other and discussing companies at length. However, she didn't quite find exactly what she was looking for. The groups she attended were very male dominated and mostly short-term trading focused. At the same time, she discovered a serious interest in investing among a few of her female friends from university. Meeting other women that were knowledgeable about investing, combined with a desire to educate women who were not, inspired Tanya to create her own special group. She called the group LadyInvestors. Ten women showed up to her first meeting. The setting was casual and fun where the women talked about a wide range of personal finance topics, all while the wine flowed. The format was a success and the group quickly took off, mostly through word of mouth. “It really grew organically, I don’t do any marketing, I really don’t do any social media – I’m terrible on social media. It’s just grown, and now we’re at about one-thousand members and who knows where we’ll be in a few years,” she explains.

Tanya describes LadyInvestors as a group of women coming together to talk about all things personal finance and investing. Tanya, along with two women that make up her executive leadership team, hold monthly LadyInvestors meetings which typically draw between thirty and forty members of various levels of investing experience. “It’s nice because there’s a core group of us that are at the same level of investing and some people that are a little bit above or below, and we travel along the road together,” Tanya says. LadyInvestors educates women through presentations put together by Tanya and her executive team, as well as by bringing in guest speakers who are often professionally certified financial experts. However, Tanya feels there is more value in LadyInvestors beyond just the financial information taught. “I think this group is so important because not only do we talk about finance and money which is a critical component of anyone’s life – particularly women’s, we also talk about all sorts of things and we encourage each other in lots of areas. Investing doesn’t just have to be about money, it’s investing in yourself,” she says. The group goes personal, discussing a range of topics from job hunting to romantic relationships, and it has been successful in forging strong connections among the members. Tanya feels the relationships gained are a significant motivator for women to join LadyInvestors, and she has even made some of her best friends through the group.

"I think this group is so important because not only do we talk about finance and money which is a critical component of anyone’s life – particularly women’s, we also talk about all sorts of things and we encourage each other in lots of areas. Investing doesn’t just have to be about money, it’s investing in yourself."

Tanya strongly believes in the importance of creating financial related groups specifically for women. From time-to-time she receives questions as to why LadyInvestors does not aim to attract both women and men. Tanya explains that generally, financial literacy among women is still very much in its infancy given a long history of men dominating the financial world. It wasn't until the seventies that women had access to personal credit cards, and couldn't even have a bank account (not to mention, the ability to vote) in the early nineteen hundreds. “We’re still very much a toddler on the spectrum of financial literacy, and on financial ownership and management,” Tanya explains. Therefore, Tanya feels women benefit from being part of a group where they can feel comfortable discussing and learning about money to build up confidence in their financial knowledge. Once the gap of financial confidence and knowledge narrows between men and women, then she will have no problem opening up her group to men. In fact, her goal is that someday she will lead a group made up of both women and men in which everyone can confidently discuss finances together.

Tanya also explains that women face specific life experiences and a women’s only group allows the space to address the financial issues derived from those experiences. She speaks about how women are socialized not to discuss money the way men are. Women are socialized not to ask for more money at work and may very well be subject to the gender pay gap. She notes that women are typically out of the work force longer than men to raise children, which can slow the trajectory of their careers, contributing to slower salary growth. At the same time, women generally live longer than men which can pose even more financial strain. Tanya stresses how important it is to be aware of the unique costs women endure and that a female targeted group can help women be cognizant of their potential financial disadvantages and plan for the future. Tanya says LadyInvestors is about “creating a safe space where we can talk about these things and even to just make women aware that these are things we have to plan for.”

The level of dedication Tanya puts into LadyInvestors demonstrates what a high priority the group is for her. It’s a wonder how she is able to balance her time between the group and her full-time job. She currently sells bike share systems around the world. The job is well-suited for her love of traveling as her work regularly takes her to many different places such as Europe, South America and Africa. She loves how she makes her living but admits the time she spends on planes can be a bit challenging for her LadyInvestors commitment. However, having the support of her executive leadership team is a huge help. “I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to bring up two women from the group who are very active in investing and who love the group as much as I do. I’ve only missed two LadyInvestors meetings in the two years that I’ve been running it, but it’s nice knowing they’re there and we can rely on each other to keep the group going,” she says. Tanya is proud of the success they have accomplished together and she believes she can elevate LadyInvestors even more. In fact, her and her team are currently brainstorming the right path to take the group to the next level. “We’re at the point where we’re like, okay, what do we do with this? We’re really at a crossroads of what do we do with it now. I would love to see LadyInvestors chapters grow across the world and have a decentralized model but to still be able to communicate with each other.”

Tanya has found a real passion for personal investing which drives her dedication to LadyInvestors. In terms of her portfolio, Tanya describes herself as taking a value and growth approach. “I have all types of stocks in my portfolio and when you can get one stock that’s both value and growth, you’ve really struck gold.” She feels Tencent is that type of stock and so it fits in well with her portfolio. Alibaba is another company she is proud to own and that she believes suits the value/growth criteria in the tech space. In addition, Tanya has been pleased with the performance of her Shopify and Cannabis investments which she explains are not value companies but are very much growth plays. When deciding what companies to invest in, Tanya conducts extensive research to make sure the companies have durable competitive advantages, that she approves of the management, and that they align with her personal values. “I do try to vote with my values in some ways. I look at compensation inequality, gender representation in management, and just general happiness of the workplace. I even read Glassdoor reviews sometimes about the companies,” she says.

"I have all types of stocks in my portfolio and when you can get one stock that’s both value and growth, you’ve really struck gold."

Once investing in a company, Tanya believes in the “buy and hold” strategy. Basically meaning, picking wonderful companies and sticking with them. It’s a strategy she likes to reinforce to her LadyInvestors members as she acknowledges how tempting it can be in today’s fast paced world to buy and sell very quickly, and how scary it can be when one’s portfolio takes a dip. Tanya herself is a bit more immune to the emotional roller coaster the average investor inevitably experiences - her unforgettable time spent across the globe has deeply shaped her perspective and has uniquely positioned her as a tough-minded investor. “I’m willing to play the long game and you have to have a strong stomach for that. Volatility doesn't bother me at all,” she says adding: “perhaps it’s because I lived in war zones and I’m like ‘I’ve got no bombs dropping on me, there’s no rebel groups marching on my city today, so I’m fine - so what if this stock dropped? I got a lot of perspective by living in some of the countries I did and I’m so grateful for that.”

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