Strong Women in Finance

March is Women’s History Month, a month to honor and recognize the countless contributions to our society from women throughout history. In honor of this month, and International Women’s Day, we would like to recognize these women in finance who broke ground, shaped history, and made it possible for others to follow in their footsteps.

Maggie Lena Walker

Born in Virginia, to enslaved parents, Walker beat the odds and became a teacher in Richmond, where she later founded a community insurance company dedicated to women. Most notably, Maggie founded St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903, and became the first woman to charter and own a bank in the United States. Maggie also sat on the board of directors for the institution. St. Luke Penny Bank was the oldest operated African American owned bank in the United States until the early 2000s. Walker also served as the Vice President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Richmond Chapter, and was a leader within the National Association of Colored Women.

Janet Yellen
(1946- )

Born in Brooklyn in 1946, Janey Yellen attended Yale and earned her Ph.D. in economics. Yellen held multiple teaching positions, joining the University of California, Berkley’s Haas School of Business in 1980 as a business and economics professor. Janet is the first woman to chair the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and is the only person who has overseen the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, and the While House Council of Economic Advisers. In 2020, President Biden nominated Yellen as secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury and was confirmed by the Senate in January of 2021.

Madam C.J. Walker

Born in Louisiana in 1867, Walker was inspired to create a line of haircare products after a scalp disorder caused her to lose most of her hair. Known as the “Walker System,” her method involved a combination of lotions, combs, and scalp preparation which quickly caught on and became a wild success. By emphasizing the use and health of the product for women who would use it, she won over and built a base of loyal customers by using a personal approach. When Walker passed away in 1919, she controlled a $500,000 business, and owned a $700,000 home, making her the first self-made woman millionaire.

Elinor Ostrom

Born in Los Angeles in 1933, Ostrom studied political science at the University of California Los Angeles, and received her Ph.D. in 1965. Elinor was the first woman to earn a Nobel Prize in economics, by proving “when natural resources are jointly used by their users, in time, rules are established for how these are to be cared for and used in a way that is both economically and ecologically sustainable.” This idea went against a longstanding theory amongst economists that natural resources would become exploited and depleted over time by users.

Adena Friedman
(1969- )

Born in Baltimore in 1969, Adena earned her BA in political science from Williams College and later earned an MBL from Vanderbilt University’s Own Graduate School of Management. In 2017, Friedman began leading the Nasdaq as President and Chief Operating Officer, making her the first woman to lead a global stock exchange company. With over 20 years of expertise in the financial industry, Friedman is credited with “significantly shaping the Nasdaq’s transformation into a leading global exchange and technology company serving the financial industry.” In 2020, Friedman joined the University Board of Trust at Vanderbilt University.

Muriel Siebert

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1928, Siebert had a passion for business and was often the only girl in the classes she attended at Western Reserve University. After taking a trip to visit the New York Stock Exchange, she was determined to work there. Tired of making less money than men, she asked her friend Gerald Tsai, a savvy investor, what he recommended. Tsai advised she buy a seat on the Stock Exchange, which she did in 1967 making her the first woman member of the New York Stock Exchange and became known as the “First Woman in Finance.”

These represent just a handful of the numerous women who have influenced American history. We celebrate their enduring legacy that has molded our society and inspired future generations.


Maggie Lena Walker – Womens History
Janet Yellen – Britannica
Madam C. J. Walker, Products, Hair & Facts – HISTORY
Elinor Ostrom – Nobel Prize
Adena T. Friedman – Nasdaq
Muriel Siebert – Womens History

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