She Invests #5 – For The First Time EVER – A Woman Holds The Most Senior Financial Position in the United States of America

A photo of Janet Yellen standing in front of an American flag.

As published as She Invests newsletter #5 on LinkedIn Influencers.

It was almost a year ago, March 8th to be exact, that I published an article with the title Finance. The New Frontier of Feminism. It was International Women’s Day, and I had written yet another article about why women’s rights are human rights, and how tools of finance, or simply put, money, are the most underused resources we have in the quest for gender equality. This article also announced the release of the latest version of my Best Reports list. It featured 650 reports, organized into 21 different categories, and spanned nearly 175 pages, all in support of Gender Lens Giving, Investing, and Action. You can download that list HERE. Little did I know last March, but less than 12 months later, we would have the FIRST EVER female Treasury Secretary of the United States, Janet Yellen.

A photo of the cover page of Jacki Zehner's Top 650 Reports on Women and Girls.

At the time, that article was my declaration to myself, as well as the world at large, that my focus was shifting away from philanthropy. I was making a promise that I would use my time and talent to be a champion for Gender-Impact Investing. About a week later, the world changed completely with the realization that we were facing a once in a century global pandemic that would uproot and turn upside down every facet of our lives. And then the pandemic landed in my own house. I was COVID case number 60(ish) in Utah, and while my case was mild, the impact of this deadly virus has been anything but. We can all make endless lists of how things are different now because of COVID-19 and how things have changed. I, like so many of you, can share stories of the sadness and loss of the past 10 months. If you want to read a poem I wrote in the early days of the pandemic, please click here. Yes, a poem. Poetry is one of the many things that has kept me going this past year, and it helped me land where I am now, in such a place of HOPE! And for that more hopeful poem, click here.

Back to this week. We have a new President in the Oval Office, Joe Biden. Kamala Harris is the first ever woman and woman of color to be the Vice President of the United States. And Janet Yellen is the first ever female Treasury Secretary (pictured above). While I celebrate VP Harris to the hills and back, this is a newsletter about money, so Ms. Yellen is the focus.

For those of you who may not know what a Treasury Secretary (TS) does, the role is very important. The TS oversees the Department of the Treasury, and acts as the principle advisor to both the President and the Cabinet on most economic and financial issues. In short, the TS is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Federal Government. Or otherwise put, the CFO for the American people! And so this is a very big deal.

It also has a very personal meaning for me given my background as a partner and managing director at Goldman Sachs, as well as being the first female trader to have that title. Treasury Secretary, in my view, is the most senior position in finance in the country, male or female, and for the very first time, just to say it again, that position is currently being held by a woman. As a former bond trader, I would hang on to every word that was uttered by the person in this role to look for direction as to the future of interest rates, and while this newsletter will not be a primer on why the rate at which the US borrows money matters so much, maybe a future one will be. For now, just trust me, it matters a lot. It could even be argued that it matters now more than ever, considering the current level of national debt related to support measures that have been provided during the pandemic.

So who is Janet Yellen? Her bio from The Balance reads, “Dr. Yellen graduated summa cum laude from Brown University with a degree in economics in 1967. She received her Ph.D. in economics from Yale University in 1971. She received the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale in 1997, an honorary doctor of laws degree from Brown in 1998, and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Bard College in 2000. Dr. Yellen was an assistant professor at Harvard University from 1971 to 1976 and a staff economist for the Federal Reserve Board from 1977 to 1978. She was a faculty member at the London School of Economics and Political Science from 1978 to 1980. She was a Fed Board member between 1994 and 1997. President Bill Clinton appointed her as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers between 1997 and 1999. She was the chair of the Economic Policy Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development at the same time. Dr. Yellen was the president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco between 2004 and 2010. She became vice-chair of the Fed Board of Governors between October 2010 and February 2014. This four-year term coincided with a 14-year term as a board member. From February 2014 to February 2018, Yellen was the Federal Reserve chair. She was the first woman to hold that position.” And by the way, she is 74.

Her accomplishments and knowledge base are beyond impressive. While we may know a lot about her leanings from a policy perspective, I can’t say I know much about her track record when it comes to championing gender equity and inclusion. A quick google search on the topic did not help me all that much, but that’s certainly not to say that she does not have one. Ms. Yellen likely has a good one, and I can only hope that not only will she do an amazing job as our CFO, but she will also utilize her platform to be a role model and change agent for so much more. Already, it looks like she will be making racial equity a priority, which is amazing.

I have written endlessly about the lack of women in decision making roles in the financial sector, and Ms. Yellen, as the most senior woman ever in finance, can do a lot to change that. In the famous words of Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Now, we will finally see a woman as the Treasury Secretary of the United States, and that is incredible. But if you are wondering what I’m referencing when it comes to the lack of women in finance, let me point you in the direction of my last newsletter, which was a bit of a rant about the lack of capital flowing to women fund managers and entrepreneurs. Please read it here. The Cheerios photo below is fully explained in that piece. I also wrote this piece, titled “Happy 150th Goldman Sachs and a Call to Collective Action”, and this one in 2016, called “Gender Equality in Finance? Nope. But Times Are Changing”. There’s also been about 100+ other pieces over the 10+ years that I have been writing on this topic. All can be found in my blog archive if you are looking for some late night reading. And of course, the 650 reports list, many of which are on this topic.

A photo of a pile of 100 Cheerios on a countertop, separated into piles for men, women, and people of colour.

Here is what I know for sure, and in particular, why this all matters so much.

Philanthropic capital will never be enough to solve the world’s problems, especially when fighting against traditional investment capital that continues to fund businesses that create and perpetuate the problems that non-profits and governments exist to solve. Financial tools and products have been created and used, bought and sold, without enough accountability for outcomes and impact. In a world increasingly defined by inequality more generally, and income and asset inequality specifically, we simply have to do better. Our very lives depend on it. 

But it’s not just Janet Yellen who brought me hope this week. President Biden’s Cabinet is the most racially diverse Cabinet in history, as well as the one with the most ever women. Obviously, it is far too early to know what will come of this, but it is a great start for President Biden’s administration. This quote by Abraham Lincoln from the Gettysburg Address has been on my mind all week: “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” In my book, having a cabinet that more fully represents the people that it is designed to serve is a very good thing indeed.

That being said, while it is very true that policy decisions made in Washington matter a lot as it relates to our economic and financial well-being, so does what you and I do every day with our financial resources. Every time money moves from our bank accounts, our wallets, or our purses to either pay for something (good or service), give to someone, or invest in something, we are transferring our financial power. The more we see it this way, the more we can see ourselves as powerful economic and financial beings. And if you want to live in a more just and equitable world, using your money more intentionally is a surefire way to make a difference. This election cycle proved, maybe more so than ever before, that every vote matters. So does every financial decision we make. They all add up. The billionaires of the world are just that, billionaires, because people buy the products, the services, and/or the stocks of the companies that those very people started or run. Without us, they would be just like us. Sit on that one for a while.

So a year later let me repeat my mantra: Finance is indeed the new Frontier of Feminism*. Welcome Treasury Secretary Yellen, I look forward to meeting you. And by they way, I sure as heck hope you call yourself a feminist. You may have once said that you prefer to ‘quietly’ break gender roles, but now that you have busted through the biggest glass ceiling of them all in the world of finance, I hope you come to shout it from your rooftop. And for all of you who think feminism is an old, dated, and politically charged word that you choose not to use, I refer you to the actual definition. Feminism isdefinedin Merriam-Webster as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and as the “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” So might we stop hating on the words feminist and feminism, especially as women? It is time to reclaim the word for what it truly means. Because I promise you. When we more fully combine the beliefs of feminism with the power of finance, we will have a more just and equitable world for all.


Fun side note: This incredible video deserves to go viral. Please enjoy and share!

Interesting side note: the outgoing Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, was my direct manager at Goldman for a period of time. In fact, he threw an engagement party for me and my husband Greg when we got engaged, as we both worked for him in the mortgage department. I also worked for Hank Paulson, who served as the 74th Treasury Secretary while he was CEO of Goldman, and very distantly for Robert Rubin who was the 70th Treasury Secretary and also the CEO of Goldman. When I first started at GS in 1988, my cubicle was right outside his. #funfactsaboutjacki

* I once again credit Ruth Ann Harnisch for this term.

2021 – A Year For Dancing Dreams

Photo purchased from Shutterstock

As published on LinkedIn Influencers on January 14th, 2021.

Well, 2020 is officially behind us. This is not to say that the problems that plagued us in one calendar year magically disappear with the turn of a page, but for me, this has always been a time to hit the refresh button. For the past several years, I have posted a New Year’s resolutions article, wherein I take some time to reflect on the year that was, and look forward to the year that might be. That said, 2020 was so unlike any other year for so many reasons. It certainly was a challenging one for me on a personal level for many reasons, and so this year I wanted to do something different – share a poem! While I have written poetry for as long as I can remember, 2020 was a year where not only did I write a lot of it, but I read a lot of it as well. Last year made poetry a necessity for me, and it showed up right at the top of my self-care list. There are so many great quotes that ask, why poetry? And especially, why poetry now? Below are a few of my favorites before I share with you my poem to start a new year.

Poetry,” Audre Lorde tells us, “names the nameless so it can be thought.” This is pulled from my favorite poetry podcast, and said in the most beautiful of accents by one of the most beautiful, thoughtful, amazing humans I have ever met, Pádraig Ó Tuama.

Photo taken in Belfast where I, we (my family), had lunch with Pádraig

And this, pulled from another podcast from another one of my favorite humans, Krista Tippett. Martin Farewell said this: “I think poetry evolved to save us from ourselves. It questions our understanding of what it means to be human and, in the process, deepens our humanity. History teaches us — and the daily news reminds us — how easily we forget what it means to be human. Probably no other art form is better than poetry at getting us directly inside another’s mind, experience, perspective. The ability to imagine someone else’s inner life is where compassion begins.We could certainly use more of that nowadays.”

Krista goes on to interview Jericho Brown and leads with this quote: “Only the creative mind can make use of hope. Only a creative people can wield it.

My poem ends hopeful, so please consider sticking with it until the end. I hope you enjoy the poem, and please feel free to share your favorite one or ones in the comment section.

My Dancing Dreams

My dreams
As a child
Untamed and unmanaged
Without boundaries
Limited only by my imagination
The dance, begun
Wild, so wild
Free, so free
My dreams
As a teenager
A young adult
Such a driving force
Inviting courage and audacity
Only supportive and always unquestioning
My invisible companion leading me boldly forward into the rewarding place of achievement
I learned steps, moves
But the choreography
Was all mine
But with age
And change of circumstance
Comes responsibility
True and imagined
real and perceived
and its dance partner
A salsa turned into a waltz
With time, and thoughts, and people
and things

The thing about dreams is that
If we try to control them
Manipulate them
Manage them
They become something they were not meant to be
But.... And .......2020 

A year for me, for many, for most
Where dreams disappeared
or, got put in a corner
Even our tamed dreams
This year, 2020, like no other that came prior
taught me many things
important things
life changing things

I took pause, maybe you too took pause
I turned away from my hopeful dreams, ignored them, hid from them and them from me
and then, finally
When I realized how much I missed them, needed them, I invited their return
I called out to them, loudly, "please come back"
And they did
I received them. I listened to them. I learned from them.

What my dreams taught me is that at some point
I surrounded them with rubber bands
Designed to tame their reach
They stretched and then snapped back
Based on so many things 
That should not really have affected them
And yet
They did .............. they do
That is on me
For I am the one who bound them
I am the one who said
"too big" "too unformed" "too ......"
“no no, not now”
“maybe.. later”
“one day”
But ahhh… 2020
Teaching me, maybe teaching you, that one day may in fact mean
But ahh... 2020
Teaching me that dreams contained are not living into their purpose
Are meant to be big and wild and driving and energizing
Not small and captured and passive and painful
But that is what 2020 tried to do to all of our dreams
By trapping us in our homes, the temptation set in to trap our dreams too
And of course, responsibility and accountability were our dance partners more so than usual
And they invited fear to the floor
And they invited fear to the floor too...

I get it, I was in it, and it happened
They were all my unwanted companions
I stopped dancing
Maybe we all
Stopped dancing 
But as we shed the memory of a year filled with pain and suffering and loss and constraints
Let us let our dreams out
Let them lead
Let them invite our company once again
Of course
That much of what was true in 2020 is still true
So much suffering and isolation is still present
We remain in our homes
But our dreams can leave
Our hope can leave
Still attached to us
Not by rubber bands but by kite string
 A sky full of my dreams and your dreams
Dancing separate and together
Colorful and abundant
Pushing away the dark clouds that have surrounded your home, and mine
So take leave dear dreams
For you must
Let me open the door for you
And I will follow
And we both
We will all
Be free...

She Invests #4 – Who are the Wonder Women of Finance and Investing?

As published on LinkedIn for the She Invests monthly newsletter.

I love Wonder Woman. If you’ve read my work in the past, this will not be a surprise. I’ve written about the character many times, I’ve described my memorabilia room filled with Wonder Woman collectibles, and in 2013, I released a report, or perhaps more appropriately, a love letter, asking Hollywood for the love of Cheerios to please make a feature length Wonder Woman movie. Now, I’m not saying that my report held any sway in Hollywood, but I will say that only a couple of months later it was announced that Gal Gadot had been cast as Wonder Woman and a film was forthcoming. That film was 2017’s Wonder Woman, and it was glorious. Thanks to pulling in a favor from a dear friend, I was able to go to the premiere in Los Angeles where I met leading lady Gal Gadot. I then bought out a screening in Utah to share the experience with all of my friends. And now, after months of COVID-19-related delays, we’re finally getting the sequel. And on Christmas Day no less. It’s the perfect way to end a year that has been about as far from perfect as you can get.

A photo of Jacki Zehner with Gal Gadot at the premiere of Wonder Woman in 2017.

It’s important to note that the first Wonder Woman movie was a historic one for Hollywood. Not only was it a critical and box office success, but it broke several records along the way. By the end of 2017, it was the #1 Superhero Origin movie by gross, it was the #1 DC Extended Universe film in both gross and critical acclaim, it was the #1 movie of Summer 2017 by domestic gross, and most importantly, it was the highest grossing film by a female director in history. That director, Patty Jenkins, is back for Wonder Woman 1984, which sees Diana being reunited with Steve Trevor and taking on two villains in the form of Max Lord and the Cheetah.

A photo of Jacki's extensive Wonder Woman memorabilia collection.

Needless to say, I can’t wait to see this film. Not only do I love this character, but I also love everything she represents. Compassion, justice, love, truth, destiny, belief, faith. Everything the world needs more of right now. Thankfully, there are countless real life wonder women out there, in every sector, who are doing their best to change this world for the better. Today, in this final newsletter of the year, I want to bring to you some of the wonder women in finance and investing. They have all written incredible books, and best of all I know each and every one of them! It might be too late to put in your Bookshop order in time for Christmas, but I did manage to pick up a couple of copies today at my local bookshop to give away to friends.

That said, these are not just books to give away. They are for you to read and learn from as well, and here’s why what they have to say is so important. To be in a healthy relationship with our money and financial resources is one of the most powerful and positive things we can do for ourselves and our dependents. Period. Full stop. Money is a necessity. It’s like water and food and shelter, and in fact, money is what enables us to have all those things and more. If you want to understand why problems exist in our world, follow the money trail, follow the money story. Money is accumulated, saved, earned, distributed, invested, given, and spent by people, all while surrounded by belief systems both personal and societal. There is so much to say about this, and in fact, I plan on saying a lot more, in a book, that I hope to self-publish in the first half of 2021. There, I said it out loud, so now it has to happen. It will happen.

But for now, take the time to really set an intention around how YOU want to be in a relationship with your money. If you believe in astrology, you know that today marks the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, the first time that this has happened in an air sign for centuries. In fact, I just returned home from seeing it for myself on a hilltop in Utah. This new age of Aquarius is poised to kickstart a cultural reset and a wave of social change focused on the collective good. And if you don’t believe in astrology? That’s ok. You can still hope for it anyways.

So onwards to 2021 and some of the Wonder Women of Finance who can help you take control of your relationship with money.

Cathy Clark – The Impact Investor: Lessons in Leadership and Strategy for Collaborative Capitalism (co-authored with Jed Emerson and Ben Thornley)

Impact Investing is still a relatively new term, but it has exploded in popularity over the past decade. That being said, impact investing is no mere passing fad. It works, as this book so thoughtfully lays out. It offers precise details on what, exactly, impact investing entails, embodied in the experiences and best and proven practices of some of the world’s most successful impact investors, across asset classes, geographies and areas of impact. I don’t as of yet know Cathy that well, but we have spent some time together and I hope that will be true in the future.

Joline Godfrey – Raising Financially Fit Kids

I’m pretty sure every parent wants to pass on good financial teachings to their children. The good news is that you don’t have to be a financial expert yourself to do so. Joline’s (now updated) book will give you all the resources you need to teach your kids about saving, spending, budgeting, investing, building credit, and donating. I got to know Joline well over a decade ago when the first edition of the book came out, and if she happens to be reading this, Hi Joline!

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz – The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances Over 50

Carrie is the daughter of famed investor and financier Charles Schwab, and the leader of the Charles Schwab Foundation. She is also recognized as one of the leading advocates for financial literacy in the country, and has served two presidential administrations in a financial advisory role. This book is tailored towards those over 50, but anyone can learn from its lessons, no matter where you are in your financial journey.

Nancy Tengler – The Women’s Guide to Successful Investing: Achieving Financial Security and Realizing Your Goals

This book provides proven wealth accumulation strategies, tailored advice, and a comprehensive market analysis. It is a must-read for female investors who want to master volatile markets with long-term success. I just so happened to write the forward, which was fun to re-read just now. “Money is not an ends, it is a means to an ends. By learning how to manage your financial assets you are resourcing your dreams, your passions, and your future.”

Alexa von Tobel – Financially Fearless: The LearnVest Program for Taking Control of Your Money

Alexa is a complete and utter rockstar. I was an early stage investor in LearnVest, the company she founded in 2009, and to date it’s my most successful exit. She is smart, fearless, and an absolute wonder woman of finance. After exiting her role she started Inspired Capital, a firm that backs early-stage founders with big, bold, and transformative visions. Am I an investor in her fund? Heck yes.

Andrea Turner Moffitt – Harness the Power of the Purse: Winning Women Investors (Center for Talent Innovation)

This book is a gift to the professional investment community. Based on a tremendous amount of research, some of which I was a part of, it provides thoughtful insights on what women investors want from their financial advisors. In 2015, Andrea co-founded Plum Alley, an angel investment community that invests in women founded companies that I am proud to be a member of.

Lynne Twist – The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life

As much as Wall Street would like us to think otherwise, money is not just about investments, returns, and profits. Money is a part of nearly every aspect of our lives, meaning whether you’ve thought about it this way or not, everyone has a unique relationship to money. And some of those relationship may be toxic without you even knowing it. This book will challenge you to examine your relationship and attitude towards money, and more importantly, how you can change it to more positively impact your life. Lynne and I go way back, and she is truly an amazing woman and teacher.

Jackie VanderBrug – Gender Lens Investing: Uncovering Opportunities for Growth, Return, and Impact (co-authored with Joseph Quinlan)

I have known Jackie for over a decade, as together with Joy Anderson they authored and championed some of the earliest work in gender-lens investing. This book is the investment bible for those who are looking to align their investments around a goal of greater gender equity and inclusion. The term gender-lens investing was coined in 2009 by the Criterion Institute, and has since grown exponentially. Jackie is truly a trailblazer in this regard, and her book is a must-read.

Leslie Bennetts – The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?

I’ve known this author for over a decade, and in fact, I got to know her at the beginning of her journey in writing this powerful book. No, it is not a book about investing. The book is about women giving up their financial power. It was written back in 2007, and it’s currently in my ‘to reread’ stack. Time and time again I have witnessed amazing, bright, independent, and talented women give up their financial power in a marriage, and sometimes it works out okay. But I am sad to say that all too often it does not. I recently heard a wise woman, a divorce lawyer no less, say that it takes a minute to say “I do”, words that are often associated with love, rainbows, and happily ever afters, and two years to say “I don’t”. When marriages end in divorce, it is often the case that one person has been the primary breadwinner. Depending on how the couple partnered in their financial lives throughout their marriage, the ending is often more financially devastating for the one who was not. Does this book issue a pretty strong warning? Indeed it does.

And one last book from a great guy!

Ashvin B. Chhabra – The Aspirational Investor: Taming the Markets to Achieve Your Life’s Goals

I had to add this one as I just super dig it. My major in college was finance, and modern portfolio theory (MPT) was a key theoretical framework to understand financial markets. This theory posits that individuals make decisions rationally based on where they may fall on a risk/return spectrum. MPT examines how risk-averse investors can construct portfolios to maximize expected return based on a given level of market risk. Harry Markowitz pioneered this theory in his paper, “Portfolio Selection,” which was published in the Journal of Finance in 1952. He won a Nobel Prize for this work, but it assumes a lot of things about human behavior that just don’t work in the real world. This is where Ashvin’s book comes in. It is a practical, innovative approach to managing wealth based on key goals and the careful allocation of risks rather than responding to the whims of the financial markets. It also offers a practical, innovative framework for making smarter choices about aligning your goals to your investment strategy. Highly recommend!

Of course, there are countless books about how to invest, plan for retirement, budget, and much more, and I am sure that many of them are great. I just haven’t read every single finance book out there, and I wanted to recommend books from people I know and trust. If you have a favorite book published by a woman, man, or even a financially literate Labrador, please share it below. I will pull of your suggestions together and check them out. And if reading books isn’t your thing, there are tons of websites/apps that serve this purpose as well. As a reminder from my prior newsletter, SmartPurse is one of them. They have just released a US version, so please sign up.

That’s a wrap on She Invests for 2020! Thank you so much for coming on this adventure with me (and Laura) thus far. I hope you and your loved ones have a very happy, safe, and healthy holiday season.