Women have been historically underrepresented in Financial Services. According to a 2017 study by Stanford University, men comprise 75% of the Wealth Management field and fill 80% of the leadership roles. However, a young black woman from Georgia has continued the trend of women breaking the glass ceiling in Financial Services. In March 2017, Lauren Simmons made history as the youngest full-time woman equity trader at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). “I am proud to have a badge of a trader,” Simmons said of her achievement in an interview with LinkedIn.
Simmons didn’t have a background in Finance. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Genetics at Kennesaw State University, and her LinkedIn states her prior experience as a Supervisor at Six Flags. Through networking and living in New York City, she was introduced to the trading floor. While the New York Stock Exchange doesn’t hire brokers, individual securities firms such as Rosenblatt Securities do. CEO Richard Rosenblatt of Rosenblatt Securities prioritized Simmons’ characters when hiring her. “I couldn’t care less if she took finance classes,” he said in a recent interview with Business Insider.
Among 250 applicants, Simmons was the only woman who applied for the position. Studies have shown that women tend to apply to positions when they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men need to meet only 60% of the qualifications to feel confident enough to apply. Qualifications tend to be a laundry list of must-haves and nice-to-haves, often with little to no determination as to the most critical aspects of the position. This leads to the under-representation of women applicants. While Simmons’ position had many barriers for entry, she took the leap anyway and applied for the position. The rest was history,
“Don’t let fear stop you. If you sit around all day thinking, ‘Oh, I’m the only female or the only minority, the only woman,’ … that is a distraction all day long. You can’t sit and dwell on the distraction. Do what you’re meant to do and do it well.”
Simmons described the trading hours at the beginning and end of the day as intensive. Her daily work included managing customer order flow with a notional value of $150M and executing trades of over 100 different stocks.
Simmons has been only the second African American woman trader at the NYSE in its 227 years of history. As an outlier in the industry, she wants other underrepresented groups to succeed. I don’t want to be the only one who breaks the glass ceiling. I want other women and minorities to do so too.”
While Simmons is no longer a trader in the industry, she has become a keynote speaker and advocate for more women in Finance. “I can’t put it all on the men who work on the floor as it is not 100% their fault if they don’t get any [women] applicants. I can’t put it all on minorities or people who didn’t grow up learning Finance because you are just not exposed to it,” she said in speaking with Business Insider. She concludes that women and women of color are capable of being in whatever field they want to be in, Financial Services or otherwise, and have the work ethic to be equally compared with males in the work field.
Moira Mai Do is the Digital Marketing Specialist at Vanderbilt Financial Group. She is interested in innovations in AI, Machine Learning, and Impact Entrepreneurship, especially in business/venture that propels climate actions. She holds a BA in Strategic Communications from Temple University.