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7 women of color leading the way in global finance

Empowering leadership: How women of color are changing the face of finance

by Motoni Olodun
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Despite the challenge of financial inclusion in the financial sector worldwide, women of color are breaking barriers and reshaping the sector in incredible ways across the globe. 

Here are seven women in Africa and around the world who are trailblazers in  the global finance industry:

1. Valerie Mosley

Valerie Mosley

Despite having a first degree in history from Duke University, Valerie Mosley,  (b, Feb 5, 1960), is renowned as a global finance expert. Despite her more liberal undergraduate studies, Mosley earned an M.B.A. degree in finance from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance. After graduating, she pursued a career at Wall Street.

Over an illustrious career, she worked as a portfolio manager, then became an investment strategist, and a senior vice president, and then made partner at Wellington Management Group in 2005. Mosley handled a $9 billion portfolio with the firm. In 2021, she left the company and founded Valmo Ventures, Inc. which specializes in trend identification, global wealth management, and corporate advisory.

She served on President Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Advisory Board for Diversity.

She has received numerous recognition for her critical contributions and indelible achievements in finance. One of the more notable awards include the UK’s Powerlist International Person of the Year 2017. She was also recognized as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and one of the Top 75 African Americans on Wall Street by Black Enterprise Magazine.

2. Mellody Hobson

Mellody Hobson

Mellody Hobson (born on April 3, 1969), is a well-known finance authority in the global finance space. Beginning as an intern at Ariel Investments in Chicago, she rose to become senior vice president and director of marketing, and in 2000, she became the company’s president. She is currently the co-CEO and president of the firm managing a portfolio of investments worth $16.8 billion in assets.

In light of her remarkable acumen, she served on President Barack Obama’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Advisory Board for Diversity.

In recognition of her colorful achievements, she was named UK’s Powerlist International Person of the Year in 2017. She was also recognized as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and one of the Top 75 African Americans on Wall Street by Black Enterprise Magazine. In 2022, she was honored with the prestigious Lincoln Leadership Prize for her dedication and leadership in the areas of corporate leadership, financial literacy, and diversity. Her net worth is estimated to be around $100 million according to Wikipedia.

3. Thasunda Brown Duckett

Thasunda Brown Duckett

Thasunda Brown Duckett, (born on July 22, 1973), is a global finance powerhouse.  She began her career at Fannie Mae, where she led targeted inclusivity strategies to enable increased homeownership among Black and Hispanic Americans. From there she served as CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, overseeing a network with more than $600 billion in deposits and 50,000 employees.

Continuing a string of upward mobility, Duckett was named the president and CEO of TIAA, in 2021. TIAA is a retirement and financial services company for academic, research, medical, and governmental workers. This appointment made her one of only four Black women to ever serve as a Fortune 500 CEO.

Duckett continues to contribute significantly to various spheres by serving as a board member of several notable entities including Nike, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, Sesame Workshop, and the National Medal of Honor Museum.

Duckett’s work has not gone unrecognized, she was honoured with the CED Distinguished Leadership Award in 2023, which honours business leaders with exemplary corporate citizenship and a strong commitment to public policy in the nation’s interests.

While specific details about her net worth are not readily available, Duckett’s impact on the finance industry is undeniable. Her trailblazing efforts have paved the way for future generations of Black and African women in finance, proving that with hard work and determination, one can overcome even the most daunting challenges.

4. Mary Ellen Iskenderian

Mary Ellen Iskenderian is a global finance advisor and expert. Known for her leadership and advocacy for women’s economic empowerment, she has been the President and CEO of Women’s World Banking since 2006. Women’s World Banking is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to providing women in the low-income bracket and women in the developing world with access to affordable and reliable financial tools and resources.

With her effective leadership, her team raised $125 million which they invested in 13 financial service providers in low and middle-income countries since 2012. Before this time, she spent 17 years at the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank. Here she developed and sharpened her definitive leadership and visionary attributes. 

Iskenderian’s business excellence is demonstrated in her effective and strategic approach to the issues surrounding financial inclusion. Presenting the world’s one billion underbanked women as a powerful new market, she convinced several banks to join her quest. Her concerted efforts have been recognized with several awards, including NYU Stern’s Distinguished Citi Fellowship in Leadership and Ethics, the Isabel Benham Award from the Women’s Bond Club, and the Women’s Finance Award given by the Institute of Financial Services at Lucerne University, Switzerland.

Her work has not only transformed the lives of many women but also made a significant impact on the global finance industry.

5. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the seventh Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO). She is the first woman and first African to hold the position. The Nigerian-American economist has a corporate career spanning over 3 decades, and has held notable roles at prestigious outfits including the World Bank and Nigeria’s Finance cabinet.

During her time as a managing director of the World Bank, she managed a portfolio worth $81 billion. She spearheaded several initiatives to assist low-income countries in mitigating the ripple effects of the 2007–08 global financial crisis and the 2008–09 world economic meltdown. Similarly, as the minister of finance, she championed reforms to reduce corruption and increase transparency in public finance administration in Nigeria.

She has been honored with the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award, the President of the Italian Republic Gold Medal, and the Global Leadership Award. Her work has not only transformed the lives of many people but also made a significant impact on the global finance industry.

6. Marjorie Mayida

Marjorie Mayida is a women’s economic empowerment champion. She is the Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer of Old Mutual Investment Group in Zimbabwe for over three decades.

She has driven positive growth of key units in the Old Mutual Investment Group (OMIG) business. This includes wholesale, retail, and property businesses. Her portfolio contributes between 10 to 15 percent of Old Mutual’s Africa total performance outside of South Africa.

She has led several profitable and notable infrastructural projects at Old Mutual. She pioneered the development and operationalization of the biggest modern SME mall in Southern Africa, the Eastgate Mall. In 2021, she facilitated the listing of the first exchange-traded fund (ETF) on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

Her efforts have been celebrated with several notable awards, like the prestigious Angaza Pan African Award. She also tops the list of Top 10 Women to Watch in Banking and Finance in Africa. Her success story gives hope and highlights the importance of diversity in the financial services industry.

7. Ibukun Awosika

Ibukun Awosika

Ibukun Awosika is a successful Nigerian businesswoman, the Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, and the founder and CEO of The Chair Centre Group. Awosika has been in corporate banking for over 30 years. She has supported the sustainability of many successful businesses in Nigeria.

Awosika’s impact and achievements in the global finance industry are significant and have been honored with numerous awards. Her accolades include the FATE Model Entrepreneur Award of the Year, the Golden Heart Award, and the International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge Award. Her work continues to transform the lives of many people on a global scale.

These women have not only achieved personal success but have also made significant contributions to the finance industry. Their leadership and deft practices have expounded the possibilities for younger Black and African women in finance. Their stories inspire and testify to the power of determination, hard work, and resilience irrespective of location and origin.

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