And as simple as that decision was most people often don’t say yes to roles that they once did not have training or schooling in
Lauren Simmons Photo Credit : IDA JOHN
At 22 years old, Lauren Simmons shattered the glass ceiling by being the youngest and only full-time female equity trader on Wall Street for Rosenblatt Securities. Affectionately dubbed as the “Lone Woman On Wall Street”, Simmons was also the second African-American woman in history to sport the prestigious badge.
Graduating Kennesaw State University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in genetics and a minor in statistics, Simmons originally aspired to go into genetic counseling. She made a decision to put that on hold. What had not changed, however, was her passion to move to New York City, where networking led her to meet Richard Rosenblatt, the CEO of Rosenblatt Securities. Beyond her many qualifications, it was ultimately Simmons’ confidence that led Rosenblatt to take her under his wing as an Equity Trader.
“Being a trader, you make decisions within microseconds,” Simmons said on meeting Rosenblatt, “So I think for him, even for me, the choice of coming onto the trading floor made sense immediately.”
The job wasn’t completely hers; she still had to pass the Series 19 exam, which is a requirement for all floor brokers to earn their badge. This test has a pass rate of 20% in a class of 10. After studying the book cover to cover for a month straight. Lauren Simmons made history. Since her story broke Lauren Simmons has been featured in various media outlets and currently, she has a movie on her journey to Wall Street starring Kiersey Clemons.
I spoke to Simmons about her journey to Wall Street, favorite moments on the trading floor and what the financial service industries can do to increase diversity and inclusion.
Dominique Fluker: Share your career journey. What inspired you to become an Equity Trader on Wall Street?
Lauren Simmons: My journey was the power of networking. I moved to New York with a genetics degree knew I wanted to do something completely different and networked like crazy. I had many people tell me no or that I didn’t have any direction because I was making the switch from genetics to statistics. And although I didn’t know what that role looked like. I was serious about it involving numbers. Ultimately becoming an equity trader was something that chose me. A job was offered to me, and I said yes. And as simple as that decision was most people often don’t say yes to roles that they once did not have training or schooling in.
Fluker: At 22 years old, you became the youngest, only full-time female employee and second-ever African-American woman working as a trader at the New York Stock Exchange. Share your process on how you broke the black ceiling.
Simmons: I never looked at my gender/race/age as a factor. At 22 I became the youngest trader (the media caught on after I had turned 23) or even imagined that I would be making history. I just wanted to do well in the role that I was given. My first month I studied for series 19 for a month straight. Didn’t talk to anyone. Originally the exam was something that anyone could pass. From what I was told you went into a room and they gave you the answers, but after the exchange went public and the exam was administered through FINRA it was a real exam. Many of the advice I was given was to just skim through the headlines of the chapters, and I would be just fine. Considering the fail rate was 80% I studied the book cover to cover. And I passed. Making history I didn’t find out till months later when I signed my name into the book, and an NYSE archivist went in front of the room with the audience and my family and informed the crowd I was the second African American women. And that moment was amazing to share with my family. And also bittersweet that in 225 I was the second African American. Amazing but eerie that things like this are still being accomplished in 2017 or 2000 anything.
Fluker: What did you love most about statistics and working on the New York Stock Exchange?
Simmons: Statistics is a universal language and through my college education of genetics and even using statistics in high school when I was going through the architectural engineering program I fell in love with numbers. Being able to interpret data to relay that information to clients was an exciting process.
Fluker: What was your most memorable moment working at the New York Stock Exchange?
Simmons: The most memorable moments was the constant laughter. There was constant laughter at all times. One of the most memorable moments was the teasing that went on the floor. I loved coming into work when someone had been out for a week, and their mouse would be glued to the desk, or garlic powder would be poured in their jackets, and they would smell like pizza all day.
Fluker: Share how the financial services industry can improve with diversity and inclusion. What obstacles did you have to overcome while working on Wall Street?
Simmons: Well, one mindset is everything. If you think you’re going to fail, you will fail. In my role, I never looked at any of my outer attributes. And because of that, it kept me focused on the job itself. Because being an equity trader or any role you have is gender neutral it just is. Secondly, the financial industry is going to have to catch up. They are dated. I read a quote once, there are more CEOs named John then there are women. The only way for there to be diversity is for it to start from the top. If everyone sitting in the executive level is white and male, what does that say about the company? And if you hire a CEO women and then let her go to replace her with another man what else does that say. Diversity has to stop being a hot topic word that people like to through around to seem cool. There needs to be action, and it needs to be represented throughout the company and not just on entry-level roles. I love Rosenblatt securities, but it really bothered me that all the partners or management were all white male. Not one woman. Don’t get me wrong they let me part of everything, but there was still a lack.
Fluker: In 2018, you signed a deal with AGC Studios to turn your inspiring story into a movie. How does it feel to have a movie created that highlights your career journey on Wall Street?
Simmons: I’m thoroughly excited to be on this project and to be one of the executive producers. I’m happy that my story and my message will have a further reach and that people will get to see a different side of me beyond the serious financial side. Kiersey Clemons is going to do an amazing job portraying me.
Fluker: What’s next for Lauren Simmons? What are you looking forward to accomplishing in your career?
Simmons: In the new year, I’m going to continue maneuvering through the world of finance. Empowering women, Millennials, gen z’s, and minorities to be financially savvy. I will continue touring doing speeches and releasing my book later this year.
This article originally appeared on : Forbes