Financial wiz-kid Lauren Simmons has ushered wall street into the 21st century by becoming the youngest and, currently, only female trader for the New York Stock Exchange and the second African American woman to hold the title. Armed with unbreakable determination and a way with numbers, the 23-year-old dubbed the “Lone Woman of Wall Street” is ready to conquer the world, or at least its economy.
Born in Savannah, Georgia, Simmons was raised in a hardworking middle-class family. Her father was the first black bus driver in Georgia, and her mother was a schoolteacher. Both parents held high expectations of straight A’s, creating an environment of love paired with a push to consistently do the very best.
After graduating from Kennesaw State University in 2016 with a degree in genetics and a minor in statistics, Simmons was initially drawn to study genetic counseling to help people like her twin brother who has cerebral palsy. However, Simmons said, “I wanted to go into genetics counseling and, long story short, they’re just not at the point in technology where I would want to pursue that,” so, instead, she ventured to the concrete jungle, unsure of everything outside of her wish to want to live in New York City.
Simmons knew she had a gift for numbers and originally planned to break onto Wall Street as a financial analysist but lacked the connections to make it happen. Simmons remembers placing blame on her mom, questioning, “Why didn’t you do better? Why do we not have more connections? Why am I struggling so hard?” she said, “But then, obviously, getting out of that victim mentality and just saying, I’m going to figure it out.”
An opportunity presented itself to Simmons when, after being denied a job as an analysist, she found herself in the running for a job in a trading role. Before being considered, Simmons was required to take a test with an 80 percent fail rate.
“Right before I took my test, there were men on the trading floor openly betting if I was going to pass,” Simmons said. But her attitude and ability held strong, confident in her hopes of becoming a trader and making her mother proud. Simmons described the moment she got her results back.
“It was such a surreal moment. They just absolutely did not believe that someone other could come in and do it, let alone a black woman from Georgia who didn’t go to an Ivy League school and didn’t have connections on the trading floor.”
Employed as equity trader on Wall Street for Rosenblatt Securities, Simmons has a mentor relationship with her employer Richard Rosenblatt. Simmons claims that through observing the importance of connection on the trading floor, Simmons knew she needed to develop a close relationship with her employer at the beginning of her career.
“I made it very apparent to be in his office once a week and have these conversations. He very much still mentors me.”
Concerning her mark in history, Simmons said,” I never look at my gender/race/age as a factor.” She never set out to make history, rather, she just wanted to do a good job.
She went on to describe the event of finding out she is the second African American trader, ”That moment was amazing to share with my family. And also, bittersweet that in 225 years I was the second African American. Amazing but eerie that things like this are still being accomplished in 2017 or 2000 anything.”
Simmons firmly believes that it is time for the financial industry to catch up. Too long has a lack of diversity lead to a concentration of white men in highly desired, and high paying, upper positions. Simmons said, “Diversity has to stop being a hot topic word that people like to throw 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.”