10 Inspirational Black Women From the Finance Industry

By Ellevest Team

Let’s get real: The financial industry is not known for its diversity — in terms of gender or race. Intersectional discrimination has turned the careers of Black women in finance into a steep uphill battle, and far too few Black women have been rewarded for their hard work.

A Black woman, dressed for work, holding a portfolio in the form of a $100 bill.

Still, as you might expect, you don’t have to look far to find amazing Black women at every level of the financial services industry. Here are ten of them we’re totally inspired by.

Maggie Walker

The daughter of a former slave, Maggie Walker was the first Black woman to charter and serve as president of a bank. Her St. Luke Penny Savings Bank opened in 1903 in Richmond, VA. At the time, banks discriminated heavily against Black people, and Walker’s vision was to create a place where they could keep money in their own community and become financially empowered. By 1920, the bank had issued mortgages to more than 600 Black families, employed many Black people, and became a point of pride in the community. Her name lives on.

Lilla St. John

Lilla St. John passed the New York Stock Exchange exam for financial advisors in 1953. She was the first Black woman to do it. She was also 25 years old and the mother of two children. Nbd.

Valerie Mosley

After graduating from Duke and getting her MBA from Wharton, Valerie Mosley went on to hold roles at a whole slew of Wall Street firms, including senior vice president, partner, and portfolio manager for Wellington Management Company, a global investment firm. Today, she’s the founder and CEO of Valmo Ventures, which she created “to advise and invest in companies that add value both to investors and society.” She also developed a financial literacy program for high school students. Her life’s mission is to help others “grow their self-worth and net worth.” (We mean, same.)

Mellody Hobson

Mellody Hobson began her career as an intern at Ariel Investments, a mutual fund and investment management firm in Chicago. Today, she’s president and co-CEO, and Ariel is the largest minority-owned mutual fund firm in the US. In 2015, Hobson was named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world (!), and in 2017, she became the first Black woman to head the Economic Club of Chicago. (She’s also an investor in Ellevest, Inc., btw.)

Carla Harris

Carla Harris has worked in finance for 30 years, and today she’s vice chairman, managing director, and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley. President Obama appointed her the chairperson of the National Women’s Business Council in 2013, and she gave a speech on the myth of the meritocracy and the need for sponsors at TEDWomen in 2018. In her free time (?), she’s also become a published author and a Carnegie Hall-filling gospel singer. … Wow.

Edith Cooper

Originally, Edith Cooper planned to open a fashion boutique in NYC … but then instead, she went to Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and launched a 30-year career on Wall Street. In the last nine years of her career at Goldman Sachs, she was head of Human Capital Management and played a big role in reforming their hiring practices to improve their diversity. Very here for it.

Suzanne Shank

Suzanne Shank began her career as an engineer, but she fell in love with finance during her MBA at Wharton. Today, she’s CEO and chairwoman of Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co, one of the biggest Black-owned investment banks in the US and the best-ranked women-owned and minority-owned Wall Street firm. She was also named National Entrepreneur of the Year by the Madame C.J. Walker Center. She says, “The most important thing we [women in finance] can do right now is give a hand up and provide mentorship for other women.” Amen.

Racquel Oden

Racquel Oden’s journey down Wall Street has taken her to Morgan Stanley, UBS, Merrill Lynch, and now JP Morgan. While she was at Merrill, she served as head of advisor strategy and development, where she was responsible for hiring and training the firm’s 14,000 financial advisors. She became known for her focus on diversity in the talent pipeline, making it a rule that half of their incoming interns had to be women and / or people of color and partnering closely with HBCUs. In 2016, she told The Network Journal, “I hire more than 1,700 advisors a year and I’ve made it a commitment to put diversity at the forefront of my job.” Yes. (Also cool: New York Governor Cuomo named her to the Committee for the Advancement of Women in Leadership in Financial Services.)

Thasunda Brown Duckett

“When you know what it’s like to look in the refrigerator and just see baking soda, or know what it’s like to have your lights turned off, personal finance is important,” Thasunda Brown Duckett (or “T”, as she goes by) told the New York Times. Her family faced a lot of financial hardship when she was younger, and so when her career brought her to the mortgage business, she jumped at the opportunity to help people. Today, she’s CEO of Chase Consumer Banking and follows a passion for spreading financial literacy. “Because the reality is for many people, the lack of money defines who you are.”

Lauren Simmons

When she was 22 years old, Lauren Simmons became the youngest trader at the New York Stock Exchange — and the only woman. She was also the second Black woman trader ever. She got the job after graduating with a degree in genetics and a minor in statistics, moving to NYC, meeting Richard Rosenblatt (CEO of Rosenblatt Securities), and basically just convincing him to let her have the job. That’s how it’s done.


Historically Black colleges and universities.

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Ellevest Team

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