I was honored to participate in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 13th Annual International Women’s Day Forum, joining a distinguished panel of women to talk about economic empowerment. My fellow panelists included Kelly Lannan, senior vice president at Fidelity Investments, Nan Morrison, president & CEO at Council for Economic Education and Jennifer Gennaro Oxley, executive director at The Motley Fool Foundation. Together, we discussed the importance of building pathways for women and girls to achieve their own financial freedom, sharing our perspectives firsthand as women working in the financial industry and in organizations that recognize the importance of financial inclusion for women.
We cannot underestimate the importance of helping women and girls develop financial acumen to position them for success, no matter their life stage or unique journey. It will positively impact our democracy, our economy and our society.
To strengthen financial resilience and confidence for women, we must improve their access to financial education and resources. This starts with business taking the responsibility to ensure a more equitable future for all and continuing to make progress in our commitments to build more inclusive workplaces where everyone can advance and thrive.
On an individual level, we can each take steps to help uplift women in our workplaces and communities by taking the time to listen and understand the diverse perspectives and experiences of others. Acknowledging and understanding the needs of others requires a key ingredient, and one of my favorite words—sonder. It’s the realization that everyone lives a life as complex and vivid as our own, even if we may never be able to completely relate to their experience. For instance, many of my colleagues may know that in addition to my role leading DEI at Edward Jones, I'm a mother to three teenagers, an attorney and a Midwest native. But what they may not see is that I've also been a caregiver, cancer philanthropist, basketball coach and social justice activist. When we humbly learn from one another, showing our authenticity – and even a bit of vulnerability – we can close the gap between intention and impact.
Advancing inclusive growth is interwoven across every aspect of our business. We believe every person deserves the opportunity to thrive, regardless of where they start. Through the dedication of the firm's 50,000 associates and our branch presence in 68% of U.S. counties, Edward Jones is committed to helping more people achieve financially what is most important to them. We also see this come to life through our firm's 12 business resource groups, which provide space to celebrate shared passions and cultures by co-hosting learning workshops and immersive events – like a recent discussion elevating strategies to close the Black community's wealth gap.
Our commitment to DEI extends beyond our workplace and into the 3,000 communities we serve. Edward Jones is committed to a range of initiatives that help financially empower women and girls. Since 2020, we have partnered with EVERFI on our Financial Fitness program, which helps grow financial knowledge and build long-lasting financial strength. We have a goal of impacting one million adults and youth by the end of 2025. To date, we have reached nearly 450,000 learners – of whom 60,000 are high school students in more than 1,000 schools, 53% of which are considered high need.
In addition, many of our women financial advisors across the country are involved in organizations such as Girls Who Invest, Rock Wall Street and Junior Achievement. They serve as mentors, coaches and facilitators to ensure that gender gaps in financial market knowledge and career possibilities are minimized. Our colleagues regularly share stories about how these opportunities within their local communities are changing the trajectory of women. Listening to their challenges and exploring solutions enables them to make more-informed decisions as they continue to increase their financial confidence and knowledge.
With research from Catalyst indicating women control more than $31.8 trillion in worldwide spending, taking action to help women and girls build financial resilience will profoundly impact society. It will create more opportunities for girls and women to build fulfilling careers and lives, improve their well-being and health, and truly support their ability to succeed. When we make the effort to recognize the individual journeys within our society—and support each other along the way —we all thrive.