Fostering Equity and Inclusion through Financial and Investment Literacy - Cynthia Plouché & Maura Cunningham - July 2023
Despite the growing attention to remedying issues in racial and gender equality, the role of women’s participation in capital markets is too-often overlooked. Financial equity is integral to inclusion and belonging, and developing financial literacy is crucial for achieving financial independence, reaching career goals, and making a difference in the world. The Alzenia Project is committed to providing opportunities for education, financial literacy, and mentoring in order to create access to self-fulfillment and positive impacts for girls and women across the country; we are passionate about connecting people and ideas, and part of our mission is to support organizations that share the same values as we do. One such organization that has become one of our grantees is Rock the Street, Wall Street, (RTSWS) a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering and advancing diverse high school girls and their alumnae with financial and investment engagement, career development, and industry access. RTSWS cohorts identify as 73% BIPOC, and 50% come from schools with free or reduced lunch. Their mission is to bring the “M” in STEM to diverse high school girls, harnessing the power of mathematics and the upward mobility STEM careers provide in one generation. We sat down with the founder & CEO of RTSWS, Maura Cunningham, to discuss their organization’s mission and our partnership.
Rock the Street, Wall Street is committed to exciting high school girls about financial math through in-school financial and investment literacy programs. Maura and I are both veterans of the financial industry who have merged our expertise with our passions to bring people together and combat inequality — when asked how she pivoted from her career to creating this organization. “Wanting to make a difference in the world, I left Wall Street, where I was often the only woman in the room, and went back to school for a masters in civic leadership. My thesis research explored why we’re losing girls in math, and I found that the reasons came down to girls not seeing adequate representation of women and girls in math, both in their communities, pop culture and in their own friend groups. I thought, ‘This is too easy not to fix,’ and created Rock the Street, Wall Street.” She describes how the organization brings female financial professionals into schools and forms cohorts of female students interested in finance and economics. This way, girls have representation both from the professional world and among their own peers.
“The societal issues causing girls to dismiss any interest they may have in math persist even today,” she describes. “Many teachers dissuade girls from pursuing STEM, finance and business clubs consist of mostly (or often all) boys, and parents generally don’t talk with their daughters about finances, taxes, and investments. We’re creating social and industrial change.” Today, Rock the Street, Wall Street is getting girls re-engaged with math in over 60 high schools across more than 30 cities, and they’ve seen incredible outcomes — the 6,000 alumnae have shown a 71% increase in financial and investment literacy, and are pursuing degrees in finance, economics and related business fields at a rate that is 5X greater than the average female attending university.
Alzenia Project chose Rock the Street, Wall Street as one of our beneficiaries because we both understand how vital it is to increase girls’ financial literacy and participation in capital markets to close today’s wage and wealth gap, especially for women of color. As Maura puts it, “If you want to change society, you have to have a seat at the table. And if you have a seat at the table, you’ve got to understand the numbers.” In discussing the partnership of our organizations, Maura highlights, “We’re both meeting women at that fundamental part of their lives in which they’re discovering who they are and choosing who they can become. We’re so grateful for the Alzenia Project’s aid in helping us serve additional cohorts so that more and more girls can discover and build their bright futures in finance and business.”
If you want to learn more about Rock The Street, Wall Street, visit their website or contact Maura at Maura.firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit the RTSWS Contact Us page and mention you are aligned with The Alzenia Project and would like to volunteer.
Coming in August: Alzenia Project’s limited podcast series, “Do Something Glorious”. The five founders highlighted in our current series of articles are featured in a go-behind the-scenes look at their lives, the call-to-action that set their course as founders; their inspirations, motivations, tribulations; what it took to make their dreams become a reality.