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Q&A with SEC Pride Alliance Co-Chair Lucretia Zinnen

May 29, 2024

The SEC's success in achieving its mission is due in large part to the agency’s ability to attract, hire, develop, and retain a high-quality, technically proficient, and diverse workforce. Any SEC employee can voluntarily participate in workplace affinity groups that plan educational and cultural programs and help facilitate inclusiveness throughout the agency.

The SEC periodically features a Q&A with an employee involved in one of its affinity groups to understand how they strengthen the agency's diversity and inclusion efforts. To commemorate Pride Month, Lucretia Zinnen, a financial economist in the SEC’s Division of Economic and Risk Analysis and co-chair of the agency’s Pride Alliance, shares her background, role with the Pride Alliance, and some of her insights into the celebration of Pride Month

Biography photo of Lucretia Zinnen
 Lucretia Zinnen

Q: Can you share a little about your background and your path to the SEC?

A: Growing up, I thought I would go into engineering, and went to the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering near Boston. It was a wonderful undergraduate experience, but while there I realized I was more interested in finance, economics, and policy than engineering and tried to figure out ways to move more in that direction. I pursued that through a master’s degree in financial engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I had trouble finding a related job in early 2013, so I went to work for Epic, the electronic medical records company, while I figured out what might come next. A year in, I decided that medical software wasn’t growing on me and applied to economics PhD programs. I went to Boston University, where my dissertation focused on asset-backed securities and the global financial crisis. I had a narrow set of job targets as I approached graduation since I knew academia wasn’t for me, and I wound up with a wonderful fit with a job offer at the SEC.

Q: Why did you join the SEC’s Pride Alliance and what do you hope to achieve as one of the new co-chairs?

A: I originally just joined right when I first got to the SEC. I figured it made sense, given I’d started transitioning my gender the previous year. Besides, even back when I thought I was a straight guy at Olin, I found that the queer group was a great place to meet enjoyable and interesting people and brought opportunities for going to fun events.

I volunteered to participate in a diversity, equity, and inclusion panel focused on transgender issues after learning that there were few other volunteers, and none who were themselves transgender. When the Pride Alliance asked for new co-chairs soon after, I thought it would be a good opportunity to spread the burden of running it while ensuring trans representation.

I would like to contribute to the Pride Alliance ramping up in-person and hybrid activities, and supporting initiatives to help queer employees feel less alone, even in offices where there is less LGBTQ+ representation.

I would like to contribute to the Pride Alliance ramping up in-person and hybrid activities, and supporting initiatives to help queer employees feel less alone, even in offices where there is less LGBTQ+ representation.

-Lucretia Zinnen,
SEC Pride Alliance

Q: You began transitioning a few years ago, in 2021. How has that experience shaped your perspective in enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion both internally at the agency and externally in the community that we serve?

A: In many ways, it hasn’t, at least directly. Both Boston University and the SEC’s Washington D.C. headquarters have been incredibly welcoming and supportive. However, in getting to know more LGBTQ+ people both in my personal life and through the Pride Alliance, I’ve come to see some of the ways others have been affected by hostility to diversity, equity, and inclusion regarding LGBTQ+ people in a much more concrete way. That said, I believe even before 2021, I viewed diversity (in myriad respects) as a simple reality which, to make a better world, should be approached with kindness and humility rather than hostility or closed-mindedness.

Q: What barriers have you encountered on your career path, and what advice might you give to help others overcome similar barriers?

A: I would say two big ones have been the difficulty of making large jumps in terms of career focus all at once and the simple reality of a weak job market during the recovery from the Great Recession. For the former, I suggest maintaining flexibility, looking for ways to gain relevant experience or credentials outside of your main professional activities, and finding stepping stones. At Olin, I couldn’t change my major (only engineering ones were offered), but I was able to take cross-registered finance and economics classes almost every semester once I knew engineering wasn’t where I wanted to take my career. I wasn’t able to move all the way to an econ/finance path on graduation, but I got closer with the financial engineering degree. And having the sense that I wasn’t locked into whatever I was doing at any one time helped make it easier to take a good job in a field I didn’t think I wanted to stay in rather than keep spinning my wheels in an unfavorable economy.

Q: You first joined the SEC as a financial economist fellow in 2022. What inspired you to apply and how has your experience changed now that you are federal employee?

A: I think I actually mentioned working on government policy as a goal in my cover letters applying to graduate school. As for the SEC itself, the agency felt like the perfect fit given my academic focus on both recent historical experiences around financial markets and instruments and the economic theory that applies to them. As it happens, the first rule I worked on was a Dodd-Frank Act mandate directly concerning asset-backed securities!

Q: What is number one on your bucket list?

A: That’s hard! Probably the easiest to scratch off is visiting some of America’s old growth forests.

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