“I want to live in a city where everyone can succeed,” says Wendy Stewart. As the Atlanta market president for Bank of America, Stewart is in a unique position to help encourage that success, a responsibility she takes seriously.
“When I came into this role in 2016, I really wanted to look at the most pressing issues facing Atlanta,” she says. She led a group that determined the issue where Bank of America could have the biggest impact—closing the economic mobility gap. The city leads the country in economic inequality and a lack of upward mobility: In the metro area, children born into families in the bottom fifth of income distribution have just a 4.5 percent chance of eventually reaching the top fifth.
To effect lasting change, Stewart knew it was important to take a hard look at the root problems, like systemic racism, that keep people locked in generational poverty. She brokered partnerships with Atlanta organizations already working to address their communities’ most urgent needs related to education, affordable housing, and workforce development. In 2020, she oversaw the distribution of more than $7.5 million in local grants and sponsorship funding, including $1.6 million in support of COVID-19 relief efforts.
One of the partnerships for which she is most proud is with Grove Park Foundation, dedicated to revitalizing the Grove Park neighborhood in west Atlanta. Stewart, who’s served on the foundation’s board for the past four years, co-chaired a capital campaign in support of a $50 million project to construct a new K-8 school, an early childhood education center, and a federally qualified health center. Now, she’s helping develop a broader strategy to make sure the neighborhood remains affordable for those who wish to stay. “We want to make sure the neighborhood is inclusive, equitable, and thriving, especially for legacy residents,” she says.
“I’ve lived in Atlanta for 35 years,” Stewart continues, “and in the past decade, I’ve seen the city go through a resurgence unlike anything I can remember. It’s our responsibility to make sure everyone has the opportunity to benefit from this growth.”