When Simmons became the youngest female trader at the New York Stock Exchange back in 2017, she felt grateful that she even passed the Series 19 — which has an 80% fail rate — let alone make history. While this may not have been her initial goal or intent, Simmons certainly has been a way paver and certified pathmaker in the financial industry. She says that she never had “a direct interest” in equity trading until she was offered a position at the New York Stock Exchange.

“At the time, I wasn’t thinking that I would be making history by being the youngest or the second female African-American female equity trader,” Simmons admitted to ESSENCE. “I was only interested in securing my first job out of college and being successful in that role.” 

As a powerful Black woman in the world of finance, and notably the second Black woman in the Exchanges’ 228-year history to hold her position, Simmons recognizes the power of the word, “no.” While the two-letter word can have an ugly label and sometimes triggers feelings of rejection, fear or frustration, she has partnered with Pure Leaf to champion the many achievements of women that all started with them saying “no”. Simmons describes the brand’s messaging as “beautiful” for putting positive power behind such a small world with large negative connotations.

“I said ‘no’ to limiting beliefs so I could say yes to shattering glass ceilings and continuing to push myself into different spaces that people often doubt I can. Women, people in general need to hear there is a positive in everything,” she said passionately. “The importance of ‘no’ is that you get to choose to write your own narrative, move past people who doubt you, and say ‘yes’ to pursuing anything your heart has to desire.”

When it comes to financial literacy, Simmons expresses the importance for not only Black women but for all gender identities, sexual orientations, and age range. “Unfortunately, America ranks 14th nationally when it comes to financial literacy. There is this common misconception that if you work in finance you are great with your personal finance – not true,” she dispels.

She continues, “Financial literacy is beyond reading numbers but also is deep-rooted with our overall relationship with money. Most people like any relationship have bad habits whether it’s [being] possessive, greedy, or fearful. The key is to change how we approach money.” Simmons suggests starting points such as budgeting or checking on your bank account weekly. She personally recommends Nerd Wallet to ESSENCE readers as a social budgeting tool to keep track of your finances.

For Black women, taking ownership of your finances in 2021 starts with a simple conversation, according to Simmons. Whether it be friends, family, colleagues, or even your romantic partner, openly discussing money is a great way to begin. She says, “I find it interesting that we are in a society that can freely talk about our partners but when it comes to speaking of anything money-related it’s taboo. Whether that’s credit scores, salary, debt, the list goes on and on.”

When asked about the best piece of money advice she’s ever been given, she responded: “Believe that you can make and keep money.” Though finances may be a bit more difficult to manage in the midst of a pandemic, especially with furloughs and lack of job opportunities available for those of us disproportionately impacted, women like Simmons encourage us to turn a “no” into a hell of a “yes” as a means to charge the batteries in our backs.