NYSE Youngest Trader Lauren Simmons Talks Diversity in Finance

As the youngest female trader on the New York Stock Exchange, Lauren Simmons knows firsthand the importance of diversity and inclusion in finance.

In 2017, when she joined Rosenblatt Securities at age 22, she was also only the second African-American female trader in NYSE history. While grateful for her experience on the court, the 25-year-old says it’s high time the financial industry ‘stopped making plans’ on diversity and inclusion and ‘just do it’ .

“I think we’ve had enough time to make enough plans about what diversity looks like and why it matters,” she said in a recent interview on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” Simmons explains that she would like to see more diversity and inclusion in the industry, especially when it comes to Black Americans and people of color.

NYSE Trader/Broker Lauren Simmons

When looking at the financial services field today, data shows that women and men make up equal shares of the entry-level workforce. But, as you move up the ranks, big gaps exist, with women making up just 19% of leadership positions, according to a 2018 report from McKinsey & Co. For women of color, that gap is even bigger. as they make up one in five employees at the entry level and almost disappear in management. According to the same McKinsey & Co. report, of the 39 financial firms surveyed, there were only 10 women of color in Suite C.

In 2019, at the request of the Washington Post, only two of the nation’s 15 largest banks, TD Bank and BNY Mellon, agreed to share their workforce data. At TD Bank, of its 42 top-ranked executives in 2018, none were black women. At BNY Mellon, data from 2018 shows that its executive level, made up of 14 people, had no black executives. Since then, according to her company’s website, a black woman has been added to her leadership team.

“I honestly think it goes beyond just having strategic plans and saying, ‘This is what we plan to do,'” she told CNBC Make It. “This is not a conversation about what we plan to do. It’s 2020, what are you doing? Period.”

Simmons, who left his job at the NYSE in December 2018, adds that executives in hiring positions need to step out of their comfort zone and look beyond their networks or Ivy League institutions to find opportunities. diverse talents for their business. And, she says, “it’s going to have to go beyond just saying, ‘Okay, let’s take a woman and then that woman will be a white woman because [diversity] is not limited to just one white woman.” She says that when thinking about diversity, more and more companies need to consider both gender equality and racial equity so that black women and other people of color are not left behind.

To do his part to make sure more young people like him feel seen in the financial services field, Simmons is branching out to produce a film about his journey at the NYSE. The project, which is slated for release in 2021, is also co-produced by actress Kiersey Clemons who will play Simmons on the big screen.

Additionally, the 25-year-old says she is working on hosting and producing her own TV show where she will give personal finance advice to people who have extreme cases of bad spending habits.

“Working in the trading room where all of my clients were white men, I really felt like I had a social responsibility to keep going and making sure more people were included at the table and more people are in on the conversation,” Simmons says, while adding that since leaving the trading floor, she’s spoken to many business leaders about how they can improve their diversity numbers. “So a lot of what I do today is not just about personal finance, but also about bringing more people into the financial industry as a whole if they want to.”

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