Sr. Nora Nash- Women of Faith in Finance
In honor of Women’s History Month, IASJ will be featuring a “Women of Faith in Finance” series celebrating four incredible women and their dedication and commitment to the advancement of human rights, climate change solutions, peace, and the common good.
As Women’s History Month and the tragic invasion of Ukraine converge, one woman’s words ring true: “Our world has become grief-stricken with individualism, hatred, political ill will, and the inability to communicate.” That woman is Sister Nora Nash, director of corporate responsibility for the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and the subject of today’s “Women of Faith in Finance.”
Nora Nash’s list of accomplishments would be impressive on any shareholder advocate’s resume– co-filer of a resolution that demanded Wells Fargo’s board order a comprehensive report about the bank’s fraudulent activity, one of the investors who put forth a historic climate-change resolution at ExxonMobil, high-profile engagements with Goldman-Sachs, Chevron, and JP Morgan Chase, the recipient of Neumann University President’s Distinguished Alumni Award, the Franciscan Federation Award, and The Legacy Award from The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility—but the fact that Nash is a nun, specifically a Sister of St. Francis, makes her achievements even more significant. Perhaps that’s why a 2011 New York Times profile called Nora Nash “one of the most surprising” corporate activists around.
What is not surprising for a subject of the book If Nuns Ruled the World is the faith that drives Sister Nora Nash’s actions; she cites Micah 6:8 as a cornerstone scripture: “This is what God asks of you, only this; to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with God.” Although Sr. Nora was not specifically trained for shareholder advocacy, she found herself “thrust into it” when the Director of Corporate Responsibility of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia left her position and Nash was asked to take over. Armed with Micah’s qualities of love, humility, and passion for justice, Nash stepped out on faith and never looked back, becoming the manager of the congregation’s assets for responsible investment as well as community development loans and social justice grants.
In taking on the giants of the corporate world, Sr. Nora Nash carries with her the Franciscan charism of “all is gift”; we are to share what we have so that no one has too much or too little. Care for the planet is critical and the abuse and overuse of natural resources for profit and luxury is antithetical to the rule of St. Francis and her own fervent spirit. Nonetheless, Nash retains her love and mercy—and sense of humor. “I have so many friends in the corporate world who don’t listen like they should, but I still love them.” She cites as one of her most treasured victories the resignation of an executive at a large corporation; “This woman listened to us over and over again and finally couldn’t justify holding that job any longer.”
Fostering female leadership has largely been a matter of leading by example for Sr. Nora; a student desk in her office has held a long line of young women learning about the “gift and grace” of corporate responsibility and Nash speaks fondly of a former Economics student who just created a budget for an entire African country. But as the tragic invasion of Ukraine converges with Women’s History Month, Sr. Nora gets a fire in her eyes about the topic of women and demilitarization. “It’s absolutely vital that women get involved in these areas because no woman would want a destructive element in her body. We give life and we protect life.”