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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Kerry Wagner Woodward

Executive Director

Philadelphia Financial Scholars

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Founded: 2020

Industry: Education

Kerry Wagner Woodward’s career began conventionally in the investment banking industry on Wall Street, where she gained valuable experience in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions and capital market transactions. However, her desire to make a positive impact on education equity led her to a career pivot a decade ago, and she transitioned from the financial sector to education.

As executive director of Philadelphia Financial Scholars, Woodward is committed to improving financial literacy and entrepreneurship education for high school students in Philadelphia and beyond.

Woodward previously worked with the Philadelphia School Partnership and Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia, where she recognized the need for financial literacy among students and alumni. This motivated her to launch a small after-school program on personal finance and offer one-on-one coaching to help students make healthy financial decisions after graduation.

At Philadelphia Financial Scholars, Woodward is working to implement personal finance into Philadelphia public high school curricula in a sustainable and scalable manner. The organization collaborates with 19 schools to offer financial literacy courses to over 1,200 students, providing schools and teachers with the tools they need to implement the program with excellence. Woodward’s vision for the future includes collaborating with even more schools and eventually reaching all of the public high schools in Philadelphia.

Woodward helped secure substantial grants for the organization, expanding the program’s footprint to serve more schools and students and maximizing efficiency to reduce costs.

“One of the most significant risks I took in my career was making the decision to take a pay cut of over 50% in order to pursue my passion for working toward equity in educational access for the city of Philadelphia,” Woodward said. “At the time, I was working in the financial sector at a private equity job, which provided me with a beautiful office, high compensation and lots of exciting transactions and fast-paced fun. However, deep down, I felt a strong calling to contribute to a cause that I believed in wholeheartedly. By transitioning into the nonprofit world to work toward education equity, I knew that personal financial sacrifices were inevitable. Yet, I weighed the potential rewards against my decreased earning potential and realized that the fulfillment and purpose I would derive from making a positive impact on my community far outweighed my monetary concerns.

“This risk has proven to be immensely rewarding. I wake up every day knowing that my work is making a tangible difference in our community. I see students thriving as a result of the Philadelphia Financial Scholars program. Witnessing the positive changes and the empowerment that education brings to individuals and communities has been incredibly fulfilling.”

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Did you know?

In college, I played varsity field hockey *and* sang in my school’s premier a cappella group (the oldest all-female a cappella group in the nation!). That’s not the fun part, though. The *fun* part is when, during my sophomore year, I had the brilliant idea to marry the two: my athlete friends were my biggest a cappella fans, which is why I had the idea to become the founder of Wellesley College’s very first all-athlete a cappella group, TONED. It was epic.


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