Ms. Fanikos

For her senior spring term project, Tianyi Shen interviewed women administrators at Govs. Here is her interview with Ms. Cindy Fanikos, the CFO at Govs.

Tianyi Shen, Editor

Q1. How did you decide to enter the education field? I know you do a lot of finance work. Was there a particular reason that you chose to do financial operations in Education?

I started at UVA doing finance but then went into banking for about 10 years. I realized that the mission [in the banking world] was basically to promote subprime lending, which is to lend at high prices to people who can’t afford a credit card. So that didn’t sit well with me.  

When I had the opportunity to do this job [CFO] over at St. John’s Prep, I thought it would be a great chance to work at a place with a mission. So that was really my entering into the Education field. I feel like I always wanted to be in support of not-for-profits, and that was a start too.

 Have you ever worked for a non-profit? Was there anyone who inspired you?

No, but I helped a friend who was starting a non-profit. I have an older sister who is a teacher for Mission Hill Grammar School and I would go volunteer for her. My dad also worked for a non-for-profit, so a lot of my passion comes from my upbringing. 

People who know me always joke that they thought I would be in something more social justice related. Although a lot of people say that working for a private school with high tuition is counterintuitive, there are still opportunities for me to help our school grow causes for good (including financial aid, relationships with cities and towns etc.) and that inspires me.

Q2. That lends to my next question, what does your day-to-day job as CFO include.

My day-to-day work is across the board. Sometimes it has to do with the numbers and calculation, working with Ms. Powers to figure out where financial aid is allocated; other times it’s communicating with human resources to talk about hiring, looking at compensation and equity there. And then there’s work with facilities, dining, and so on. 

What do you particularly enjoy?

I would say collaboration is the biggest thing that I end up doing every day. I find it very humbling to be around people who have different skill-sets. 

Q3. You mention that you work with people like Ms. Powers and Ms. Nelson. How has your experience as a female administrator been?

When I was at St. John’s, I was the first female CFO, and one of two women on the leadership team. Here at Govs Dr. Quimby’s built an admin team that is predominantly female, and it’s amazing. Being in the majority on a leadership team is empowering and brings a lot of different voices to the table. 

Do you feel like there were incidences when that wasn’t the case (when leading as a female faculty was hard?) 

Yeah. I would say I probably experienced that more outside of the Education field, for example there are a lot of things that happen after-hours in the banking world that I didn’t always want to participate in. I’ve also seen friends struggle to maintain their role or get to the next level in leadership in those fields.

Beyond that, I’m also a single mom. My ex is wonderful, but there are things in my personal life that adds dynamic to my work and sometimes [when it is a male-dominated space], I don’t think everybody can understand that. 

Q4. What hopes do you wish for the education field in the future?

I definitely feel like that [gender] balance is necessary. I hope that we can maintain great female leaders in schools, even at the level of faculty members. I know that Govs faculty have a lot of responsibilities so I hope that there can be some flexibility for them also. Because again, people live here, and that’s why I think the campus master plan is so worthwhile, to imagine what Govs will look like 10, or 20 years from now. My job is to make sure that spaces are comfortable for students and their families, and faculty too.

Q5. What do you hope younger women would know entering careers or Education? 

I feel like I really do hope that teachers continue to be valued. Teachers are so important. I watched my sister and the impact that she had on students. It is a field that is so needed.

Also, I hope young women would know that it’s okay to say no. Try to feel like you can find a voice and ask for things that you deserve. I think we’re taught sometimes, being raised, that we need to be quieter, and that it’s not kind to say no. But most often, by speaking up, you’re doing right by yourself and everyone around you.