March 8th is International Women’s Day so we are taking the time today to celebrate some of the incredible achievements of women in finance.
Women have made many important contributions to the finance sector throughout the years but as a historically male-dominated industry many are lesser-known and under-appreciated These women have often been left out of the popular economics conversation even though they made trailblazing efforts to make changes within the industry.
In this article, we will talk about three incredible achievements of women who have made important contributions to finance.
Maggie Lena Walker, first female bank president
Maggie Lena Walker was the first woman to charter a bank – and that was all the way back in 1903. We’ve progressed a lot in rights for women since then but try to imagine how difficult it must have been for a woman to take on that role over one 120 years ago – when women still did not have the right to vote in the US.
She became the president of The St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank, which was a community lending institution that focused on helping the local people of St. Luke builds savings and achieves home ownership. Their particular focus was on women and racial minorities, of which Maggie was both. That right not only was she the first female bank president but she was also the first African American woman to run a bank.
By 1920, the bank she chartered had helped over 600 members of the community purchase homes. Her vision and leadership set the standard for these types of institutions and inspired many more like them to come about.
She was incredibly brave to follow such a path at a time when there was every barrier preventing her from achieving her goals.
Annie Besant and the Bryant & May matchworkers
Annie Besant and the Bryant & May match workers can be credited with being one of the initial forces that pushed the UK government to pass the Equal Pay Act in 1970.
But many of them would never see the day that act was passed. These women lived in the late-19th Century, in London’s East End which was notorious as a place of extreme poverty.
It was in this depressing environment that the Bryant & May match workers lived and worked. They were mainly young girls – many of them around the age of 13 – and each day they faced a life of hard toil, earning terrible wages. This was all while the company’s shareholders were cashing in dividends of over 20%.
Annie Besant was an activist and socialist at the time and became aware of and outraged by this exploitation. As such, she went to investigate the conditions of the factory for herself.
On 23rd June 1888, after investigating the factory and speaking to many of the girls who worked there, she published a shocking article in The Link (a popular publication of the time). In the expose she likened the factory to a “prison house” and spoke of the oppression that these young girls faced.
Later on that year, over 200 girls and women went on strike from the factory to protest the exploitative working conditions. This was one of the first major strikes of its kind and that same year, the TUC passed a resolution that called for women to be paid at the same rate as men for the same work.
This was the start of a movement that would eventually lead to the Equal Pay Act that changed the economic circumstances and pay for women across the UK.
Kate Ryder building a “unicorn” dedicated to women’s health
Women have made massive strides in finance throughout history and they show no signs of giving up their trailblazing spirit. In today’s world, women are building companies that focus on women’s issues (and receive huge investments to grow them).
Kate Ryder is one such woman who built a “unicorn” dedicated to women’s and family health
Her startup that turned into a unicorn is called Maven Clinic. It is the largest virtual clinic for women’s and family health in the world and has seen impressive success.
In August 2021 during its Series D fundraising round, it received $110 which brought the value of the company up to $1 billion and officially made it a unicorn.
Ryder founded her clinic because some of her friends started having kids and she became aware of the limited support they were receiving. The clinic now assists women and families with everything from fertility treatment to paediatric care.
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