Rolling Out

BlackRock’s Stephanie Smith details why the Wall Street Project is so critical

BlackRock's Stephanie Smith details why the Wall Street Project is so critical
Stephanie Smith, COO of BlackRock Alternative Investments (Photo by Terry Shropshire for rolling out)

NEW YORKRev. Jesse Jackson’s Wall Street Project (WSP) has contributed greatly to Blacks’ substantial and incremental advancements in the world of finance and big business. The WSP has not only aided in the process of creating intergenerational wealth but also teaches others how to navigate successfully within this highly profitable, albeit complex, sector.

During the 25th anniversary of the Wall Street Project’s annual conference in Midtown Manhattan, representatives of color from renowned financial firms devised additional ways to expedite and amplify that progress — and to also make it sustainable long term.

“What you heard from all of the panelists that participated is that there’s ongoing awareness around the importance of not only representation and diversity, but it’s about creating equity and inclusion,” Stephanie Smith, the managing director and COO of BlackRock Alternative Investors, told rolling out exclusively.

“What that really means is increasing access, increasing the retention and advancement of Black professionals at our firm, the vendors that we deal with, and the way that we conduct business. And that if we do it well, it works well for our clients, as well as for our communities.”

Smith indicated that the Wall Street Project has, over its quarter-century of existence, facilitated invaluable partnerships to demystify the financial services sector for young impressionable youth. From the outside looking in, the many gifted students of color have looked at Wall Street and world finance as formidable, intimidating entities that were beyond their grasp. Smith and others are changing that paradigm through the Wall Street Project and their partnerships.

“A lot of times, companies including BlackRock, have established strong relationships with organizations, especially nonprofit organizations that have access to talented youth that may not have direct access into finance organizations, those amazing organizations that reach into the community [and] work with our youth,” Smith said.

“We partner with them along with a lot of other firms. I know that other firms, you know, use Prep for Prep [leadership development program] and other organizations as well. Because it’s about creating awareness. And through that awareness, if you can see it and understand it, then you can dream it and actually pursue it. So you’ll see a lot of firms doing that as well.”

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