Power Suit: Closing the Wealth Gap

Fidelity Investments’ Pamela Everhart is on a mission to create economic mobility for all

Pamela Everhart, a lawyer, never intended to work in finance. But when an attorney at Fidelity Investments reached out to recruit her, she agreed to meet. She loves connecting with people, after all, and quips that she didn’t want to turn down a free lunch.

During that pivotal lunch, she learned that Fidelity focuses not just on Wall Street, but on Main Street—empowering everyday people to save, invest, and build a secure financial future for themselves. Eager to be part of that effort, Everhart signed on.

Over the course of a 28-year career with Fidelity, Everhart has served in various leadership roles, overseeing high-performing public policy, legal, and compliance teams. She has educated and influenced state and federal lawmakers on key policy issues ranging from retirement and data privacy to D&I.

Everhart currently serves as senior vice president and head of regional public affairs and community relations. She is passionate about removing barriers to financial inclusion and closing the racial wealth gap. For example, she deftly aligns employee volunteers with nonprofits around shared goals such as delivering financial literacy programs to hundreds of thousands of students in underserved communities.

Everhart is co–executive sponsor for Aspire (Fidelity’s Latino and Black employee resource group) and a senior advisor for the Women’s Leadership Group. She is also among the executives who helped launch the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund, a Massachusetts nonprofit investing in organizations that address racism and drive positive social change. Everhart was appointed to the Steering Committee of the Boston Racial Equity Fund by Boston mayor Martin Walsh. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin and a JD from Harvard Law School.

Diversity Woman: Who influenced you most during your formative years?

Pamela Everhart: I give a lot of credit to my mom, who instilled in me that I could be whatever I wanted to be. She instilled in me the importance of staying focused on my dreams and moving forward.

The other person in my life—and I never had the opportunity to go back and tell him this—was my sixth-grade math teacher, Mr. Charles Mathis. [Around sixth grade], sometimes girls pull back, because you don’t want to be the smartest one in the room. You kind of let the boys move forward. Well, Mr. Mathis didn’t let that happen. He knew I was really good in math, and he pushed me. He would give me additional projects and exercises and math quizzes that were separate from the class. I ended up being the top math student in the sixth grade.

He took the time to invest in me, and in my job now, I’m investing in students through the platform of Fidelity.

DW: How does Fidelity help empower students financially?

PE: We do volunteer events where we go into schools and help kids learn about financial literacy. We’re training the teachers so they feel confident about teaching financial concepts.

Most recently, we entered into a great partnership with the Connecticut Suns, a WNBA team. We are working with some of their kids’ summer [basketball] camps. We’re using these great athletes to reach out to kids and teach them financial concepts.

An initiative we launched earlier this year is called Invest in My Education—$250 million invested in the education of Black and Brown students. This will offer 2,500 students the opportunity to graduate with no college debt. So with their first job, they can start off saving and investing to build a pathway for wealth. Our partner in this effort is UNCF (United Negro College Fund).

We realize that not every student needs a full scholarship. Some just need that last $500 or $1,000 to pay the tuition bill so they can graduate. So we will also be providing persistence and completion grants to educational institutions, for a number of students beyond the 2,500.

[Fidelity is also] investing in nonprofit organizations focused on the pathway from high school to college to work. We want to give those organizations the financial resources they need to support students. We think that with these ecosystem-building grants, along with the persistence and completion grants, we can potentially reach up to 50,000 students.

Another program, and I’m so proud to be able to lead this, focuses on what we call the “mighty middle.” These are kids with GPAs from 2.5 to 3.5. There are lots of scholarships available to very high-achieving students. And then if you’re at the very bottom, there’s money. But in this scholarship program, we’re trying to reach those kids who have the grit, who have the focus, but because of things in their lives may not have achieved that very high GPA—those solid B students who are the engine of our economy.

DW: Are there other groups Fidelity is concentrating on?

PE: We also focus at Fidelity Investments on women and finance. Some of my business partners have been involved in activities where we are communicating to women how they can take control of their financial lives.

Also in the community, we’re partnering with organizations that are making sure people have good strategies to learn not only to save but to take the next step, which is investing.

DW: What key leadership lesson have you learned?

PE: It took me a while to realize this, but I don’t have to do it all myself. Sometimes women decide that if the job is going to be done right, we have to do it. It’s okay to pass the ball. I will make sure my team has the resources it needs to be successful, but I don’t have to take every shot. At the end of the day, it’s the team scoring.

I’ve learned to do it in my professional life—and in my personal life as well. During the pandemic, my son at college came home, and I also have a daughter at home. So I’m like, OK, I’m going to cook every day. But that wasn’t working. So I gave my husband a day, gave my son a day, gave my daughter a day, and I had
a day.

There’s another thing I learned. I was doing some research on Katharine Graham, the former publisher of the Washington Post. I recall her saying, “Mind on, hands off.” That’s how I am as a leader. I know what my team is doing—my mind is on it but my hands are off. I take the time to hire really smart people, oftentimes much smarter than me, because then they can execute. I establish a vision, give them direction as to what we’re trying to do, give them tools and resources, and then support them and give them credit. If we do all of that, it’s a winning combination.

DW: What advice would you give a young woman aspiring to leadership?

PE: I tell my team this all the time, and it’s my motto: always remember that R comes before T; that means relationships come before tasks. As you are moving up in your career, it’s hard to get anything done by yourself. You have to develop strong relationships. People tend to work well with folks they know very well. So I would say spend time to get to know your colleagues, spend time to get to know folks in the community. You never know who is going to be in a position to give you an opportunity.

DW: Looking ahead, what excites you most?

PE: I am most excited about the Fidelity Scholars, those 2,500 students over the next three or four years who will graduate from college with no debt. I’m going to look back and be so proud that, like Mr. Mathis invested in me, Fidelity Investments invested in the education of kids who looked like me—Black and Brown kids—so they could be put on a pathway to building generational wealth. DW

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