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Updated on Thursday, February 28, 2019
1. Henrietta “Hetty” Green
Born in 1834, Henrietta “Hetty” Green was one of the nation’s first value investors. Though Green came from a wealthy family that made most of its money in the whaling industry, her financial savvy turned her into an investing powerhouse. Case in point: When her father gave her beautiful dresses to attract a rich suiter, she instead sold the clothing and used the proceeds to invest in government bonds.
When Green died in 1916, she had amassed a fortune of more than $2 billion in today’s dollars and was considered the wealthiest woman in America. Known for her miserly ways and the black mourning clothes she adopted after the death of her husband, Green was commonly referred to as the “Witch of Wall Street.”
2. Janet Yellen
Janet Yellen was the first woman to be chair of the Board of Governors for the U.S. Federal Reserve, a position she held from 2014 to 2018. By and large, Yellen has been lauded for her performance as the fed chair, overseeing the economy during a period of low unemployment, record stock prices and low inflation. When she left office, 60% of economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal gave her an “A” rating, while 30% gave her a “B.”
Yellen received her bachelor’s degree in economics from Brown University before going on to receive a Ph.D in economics from Yale University. She is a professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley.
3. Millicent Garrett Fawcett
A major player in the women’s suffrage movement in the 1800s, Millicent Garrett Fawcett was well-known for her political activism, dedication to promoting women’s rights and keen understanding of economics.
Born in 1847, Fawcett penned many books, including “Political Economy for Beginners,” a short book published in 1870 that broke down economics so it was easy to understand. Numerous iterations of the book were published over the course of 41 years. Academics believe Fawcett’s contribution to today’s understanding of economics has been largely overlooked.
4. Abigail Adams
Although Abigail Adams was primarily known as the wife of founding father John Adams, she was noteworthy in her own right for fighting for financial independence during a time when doing so was largely unheard of for married women.
Not only did Adams manage the family’s household finances, but she also traded bonds and proved to have a sharp acumen for investing. Letters to her husband showed she also spoke out about laws that prohibited women’s rights, including the fact that married women couldn’t own property. Over the course of her life, Adams prudently invested her own “pocket” money and accrued quite the fortune, which she left primarily to women in her will.
5. Harriet Martineau
Often referred to as the first female sociologist, Harriet Martineau wrote many books, including “Illustrations of Political Economy.” This book explored political economic theories (such as labor strikes and overpopulation) through easy-to-digest illustrations that made the concepts accessible to the layperson.
Born in 1802, Martineau was known for her sharp intellect when it came to politics and economics. She wrote extensively over the course of her 74-year life, with 50 books and countless articles and essays to her name.
6. Elinor Ostrom
Elinor Ostrom is well-known for being the only woman to ever receive a Nobel Prize in economics. A political economist, Ostrom received a Ph.D in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles before becoming faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.
Ostrom received a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009 for debunking the long-held idea that natural resources, when used collectively, would be destroyed over time due to the self-interest of each individual. Through research, Ostrom proved that when communities shared natural resources, they often developed rules for caring for these resources, which in turn promoted economic sustainability.
7. Madam C. J. Walker
Madam C. J. Walker — born as Sarah Breedlove — is one of the first self-made African-American female millionaires in the U.S. An entrepreneur, activist and philanthropist, Walker created her own hair care product line in 1904 for black women called Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. Walker’s business exploded, and at the time of her death in 1919, her net worth was over $1 million.
Over the course of her career, Walker regularly advocated for black women by running sales training programs designed to help them achieve financial independence.
8. Carla Harris
Carla Harris is the vice chairman of global wealth management and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley. In 2013, former president Barack Obama appointed Harris to chair the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC). Harris has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University, as well as an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
In addition, Harris penned two business books, “Expect to Win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace” and, “Strategize to Win: The New Way to Start Out, Step Up, or Start Over in Your Career.”
9. Abigail Johnson
With a net worth of over $16 billion, Abigail Johnson is one of the richest women in the U.S. Johnson is the president and CEO of Fidelity Investments (a company her grandfather founded). She became CEO and president of the company in 2014, and was later named chairwoman in 2016.
Since taking the helm of Fidelity, Johnson has publicly stated that one of her primary goals is to hire more women.
10. Ho Ching
Regularly included on lists of the most powerful women in the world, Ho Ching is the CEO of Temasek Holdings, an investment company in Singapore. During her 16-year reign there, she has given the company a global reach by shifting its focus beyond Singapore, growing the company’s portfolio to more than $235 billion.
Ching is also active in public service and philanthropy. She was the chairman of the Singapore Institute of Standards & Industrial Research, the deputy chairman of the Productivity Standards Board and the deputy chairman of the Economic Development Board. She is also the founding Chairman of Trailblazer Foundation Limited, a charity dedicated to education, sports, health and community welfare. Her husband is Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister of Singapore.
11. Stacey Cunningham
Stacey Cunningham is the first female president of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). She rose in the ranks to her current position, beginning as an intern at the NYSE in 1994 and later going on to be a clerk on the trading floor. At this time, she was one of only around 30 women at the NYSE, and was regularly referred to as “the girl” by her mostly male colleagues.
In 2015, Cunningham became the NYSE’s chief operating officer and in 2018, she became the exchange’s 67th president.
12. Adena Friedman
Adena Friedman is the president and CEO of the Nasdaq, a position she has held since 2017. This position makes her the first woman to ever lead a global exchange company.
Friedman has a long history with the Nasdaq, having been with the company on and off since 1993. Prior to serving as the president and CEO, she served as the president and COO from 2014 to 2016. Friedman also had a stint as the managing director and CFO of The Carlyle Group, a private equity company, and she is credited with helping the company go public.
13. Anne Finucane
Anne Finucane is the vice chairman at Bank of America and chairman of the board for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Europe. As part of her responsibilities, she oversees £30 billion in assets. Finucane established the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell University, which offers free courses for female entrepreneurs taught by Cornell faculty.
14. Christina Romer
The former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), Christina Romer worked closely with former president Barack Obama from 2009 to 2010 to help guide the administration in the wake of the Great Recession. She is the second woman in history to hold this role.
Romer is currently a professor in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, she is the former vice president of the American Economic Association (AEA).
15. Rania Nashar
Rania Nashar is the CEO of Samba Financial Group, the third largest bank in Saudi Arabia. Not only has she been the CEO since 2017, her role also made her the first woman to hold the position at a listed bank in the country. Prior to this position, Nashar had an extensive history at the company and was a board member for Samba Financial Group’s global markets subsidiary.
16. Helena Morrissey
Helena Morrissey is the head of personal investing for Legal & General Investment Management, an investment management firm in England. Prior to that, she served as the chief executive of Newton Investment Management.
Morrissey is well-regarded for creating the 30% Club a campaign that advocates for more gender balance on company boards and in senior management. She is also the author of, “A Good Time to Be a Girl: Don’t Lean In, Change the System.”
17. Thasunda Brown Duckett
Thasunda Brown Duckett is the CEO of consumer banking at JPMorgan Chase. She is the first African-American to hold this position. Duckett helms the bank’s consumer banking division, which includes wealth management. She oversees 47,000 employees across 5,300 branches. Prior to her current position, Duckett served as the CEO of Chase Auto Finance.
Duckett founded a charity, the Otis & Rosie Brown Foundation, which is named after her parents. The charity recognizes unsung heroes who are making a difference in their communities.
18. Mary Paley Marshall
Economist Mary Paley Marshall was the first female economics lecturer at the University of Cambridge, a role she was given in 1875 at just 25 years old. In addition, she was one of the first women ever admitted to attend college at the University of Cambridge.
Marshall co-authored “The Economics of Industry” in 1879, a text that is widely considered one of the most influential in economics. Marshall spent the last two decades of her life helping create the Marshall Library of Economics in Cambridge.
19. Francine Blau
Francine Blau is an economist and professor at Cornell University whose formative research on gender wage gaps in the U.S. has informed our country for decades. Blau has published over 100 articles, chapters and conference proceedings, as well as 10 books, including, “The Economics of Men, Women, and Work,” a seminal work that explores gender issues in today’s labor market.
In 2010, Blau was awarded the prestigious IZA Prize for her contributions to the field of labor economics.
20. Edith Abbott
Although primarily known for her pivotal role in establishing the field of social work, Edith Abbott also garnered recognition for her work in economics. In 1905, she received a Ph.D in economics from the University of Chicago and shortly thereafter, she completed a fellowship at the London School of Economics. In 1907, Abbott became a professor of economics at Wellesley College.
In 1935, Abbott helped draft the U.S. Social Security Act with Frances Perkins, the U.S. Secretary of Labor at the time.
21. Anna Schwartz
An American economist, Anna Schwartz was best known for her work co-authoring the 1963 book, “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960” with Milton Friedman. This influential text on economics dissected the cause of the Great Depression, attributing it to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policies.
In 1981, Schwartz became executive director for the U.S. Gold Commission. In 1993, the American Economic Association (AEA) named her a distinguished fellow.
22. Deirdre McCloskey
Deirdre McCloskey is regarded by many as one of today’s most influential economic minds. A distinguished professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, McCloskey has written more than 15 books and over 300 articles on economic theory and economic history, among other topics. Some of her most notable books include, “The Rhetoric of Economics” and “The Secret Sins of Economics.”
McCloskey holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics from Harvard University.
23. Dambisa Moyo
Originally from Zambia, Dambisa Moyo is a macroeconomist and author who previously worked as a banker at World Bank and Goldman Sachs. She has authored four New York Times best-selling books, including “Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth — And How to Fix It,” which came out last year.
Moyo originally studied chemistry as an undergraduate student at American University before going on to receive an MPA from Harvard University and a Ph.D in economics from Oxford University.
24. Joan Robinson
Joan Robinson was a British economist recognized for her important contributions to economic theory, in particular Keynesian economic theory. She came up with the theory of monopsony, which describes a market with only one buyer and many sellers, in her 1933 book, “The Economics of Imperfect Competition.”
Robinson earned her degree in economics from the University of Cambridge, where she went on to work as a professor. She was the first female honorary fellow at King’s College in Cambridge.
25. Janice Bryant Howroyd
Janice Bryant Howroyd is the founder and CEO of ActOne Group employment agency, one of the largest minority- and woman-owned business enterprises (MWBE) in the country. Howroyd is known for being the first black woman to run a business valued close to $1 billion. The staffing agency has over 17,000 clients in 19 countries.
Howroyd started her business in 1978 in a small office in Beverly Hills, Calif. In 2018, she was listed as one of the wealthiest self-made women in the U.S. by Forbes, with a family net worth of over $350 million.
26. Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel is a powerhouse in the financial world, and no list of women who impacted finance would be complete without her. Merkel is often referred to as the “de facto leader of Europe.”
The first woman to become chancellor of Germany, Merkel is No. 1 on the Forbes 2018 list of “Most Powerful Women in the World.” She is regarded as the primary force that got Germany through a major financial crisis and back on its feet.
In the fall of 2018, Merkel announced that she would be stepping down as the chancellor of Germany in 2021.
27. Marianne Lake
Marianne Lake is the CFO of JPMorgan Chase, a position she has held since 2012. As CFO of the largest bank in the country, she oversees over $2.5 trillion in assets. Lake is well-known for improving automation technology at the bank. There has been significant speculation that Lake could one day replace Jamie Dimon as the bank’s chairman and CEO.
Lake has shown a commitment to empowering women in finance through her role as a co-founder of the Women on the Move initiative, which aims to help women advance in their careers.
28. Mary L. Schapiro
Mary L. Schapiro is the first woman to be permanent chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Schapiro served as a financial services regulator for four U.S. presidents: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Schapiro also served as the chairman and CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) from 2006 to 2009, as well as the chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Schapiro is the only person to have been chair of both the SEC and the CFTC. Currently, Schapiro is the vice chair for public policy and special advisor to the founder and chairman at Bloomberg LP.
29. Maggie Lena Walker
Maggie Lena Walker was the first woman in the U.S. to charter a bank. Walker founded St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank, which later merged with two other banks in the U.S. to become The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. (The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company was the oldest bank in the U.S. to have black-ownership status until it was acquired in 2005.)
Walker founded the bank in 1903 and served as the bank’s president until her death. Throughout her life, she was well-regarded as an outspoken advocate for both women and members of the black community.
30. Muriel Siebert
In 1967, Muriel Siebert became the first woman to have a seat on the NYSE. She was the only woman among 1,365 men. Often referred to as “The First Woman of Finance,” Siebert founded and served as the president of Siebert Financial Corp., which made her the first woman to run one of the NYSE’s firms. Siebert was also the first woman to hold the role of superintendent of banks for New York state, a position she held for five years.
Siebert was known for helping other women have a place on Wall Street. In fact, she donated millions of dollars to help other women start their own businesses.
31. Claudia Goldin
In 1990, Claudia Goldin became the first woman to receive tenure at the Department of Economics at Harvard University. Goldin served as the director of development for the American Economy Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) from 1989 to 2017. Her economic research spans many topics, including the female labor force, income inequality and the gender gap.
Goldin has written many books, including, “Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women” and, “Women Working Longer: Increased Employment at Older Ages,” which was published in 2018.