Book Talk circle

Paying Tribute to Wilma Soss: An Unsung Hero to Business Women

by Mike Ferlazzo
Cover of book "Fearless: Wilma Soss and America’s Forgotten Investor Movement"
Photo Credit: All Seasons Press
The proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 31% in 2021, the highest number ever recorded, according to a report by Grant Thornton, one of the world’s largest professional services networks. The research found that 90% of companies worldwide had at least one woman in a senior management role as of 2021.

Business women may have Wilma Soss to thank in part for those gains. A shareholder activist who rocketed to fame while fighting for the rights of the individual investor, Soss agitated for a host of corporate reforms that advanced equal opportunities in all areas of corporate America, including boards of directors and executive positions.

Freeman College of Management Professor Janice Traflet has teamed with Robert E. Wright, senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, to uncover Soss’ contributions for a new generation. Their new book, Fearless: Wilma Soss and America’s Forgotten Investor Movement, may give Soss her belated due.

“Unfortunately, popular memory of Soss’ rich legacy faded in the decades after her death, even though during her heyday she was so popular that a Hollywood movie [The Solid Gold Cadillac, 1956] was loosely based on her extraordinary life,” Traflet says. “Wilma Soss was truly ahead of her time. She was a pioneer financial journalist with millions of devoted followers listening to her NBC radio show, Pocketbook News. She saw the importance of ordinary Americans increasing their financial literacy and getting involved in the stock market.”

A Champion for Equal Opportunity

Using archival documents, the authors tell the story of how Soss came to embrace the shareholder activist path as a creative route to achieve an astonishingly broad vision of equity for women in the workplace. She and a handful of other “corporate gadflies” also campaigned for other meaningful corporate governance reforms that would benefit little investors — male and female alike.

Soss was well known for her antics at annual stockholder meetings. She used megaphones and wore costumes carefully calculated to make both headlines and profound points about executive privilege and malfeasance. In mid-20th century America, every major CEO in the country knew and feared Soss’ name, according to Traflet.

“I want the reader to walk away thinking that this woman [Soss] was remarkably successful and happy in the career she pursued in shareholder activism,” she says. “She proved that you can achieve success and happiness even when the playing field is not level. Moreover, one person can make a real difference in making the path easier for others who follow.”

Traflet believes the book will appeal to a wide audience and hopes there will be a movie remake of The Solid Gold Cadillac — one that more accurately captures Soss’ life. “In this case, the true story is even more riveting than anything even Hollywood could dream up,” Traflet says.

Fearless: Wilma Soss and America’s Forgotten Investor Movement by Janice M. Traflet & Robert E. Wright (All Seasons Press, August 2022)

Alumni Books

Jim Zervanos ’92, M’94
That Time I Got Cancer: A Love Story (Koehler Books, 2022)
Zervanos’ memoir takes readers on the intimate journey of his 2011 cancer diagnosis and recovery, detailing how his support system enabled him to “experience joy even in desperate times.” Zervanos is a Philadelphia-based writer, artist and teacher whose award-winning short stories have been published in literary journals and magazines. While at Bucknell, the English and art & art history double-major and baseball player received the William Bucknell Prize for English and was named Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Theodore Burnes ’00
Handbook of Consensual Non-Monogamy: Affirming Mental Health Practice (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022)
Burnes, a psychologist and professor of clinical education at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, provides the “first comprehensive, intersectional examination of consensual non-monogamy.” This handbook contains evidence-based research and insights from leading experts in this emerging field to help provide information to a client population that is often stigmatized.

Nana Foulland ’18
Through the Lens of a Game: How Basketball Was My Ticket to the World and the Lessons It Taught Me (self-published, 2022)
At Bucknell, Foulland was a star basketball player who led the Bison to two Patriot League titles and two NCAA Tournament appearances. After graduating, his dream to play professional basketball led him overseas. Over the next four years, Foulland played on courts in Israel, Romania, Poland, Italy and France. Foulland is now back stateside, working as a video analyst with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. In his memoir, he describes lessons learned — “the ups and downs of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”