Senior Vice President • Federal Reserve Bank of New York • New York, N.Y.
Valerie I. Rainford takes the extra long path to her office each morning, stopping by the departments she oversees to say good morning to her staff. Several cups of coffee on her desk are tokens of their appreciation. “I almost never buy my own coffee,” says Rainford, whose smile brightens the steel and gray around her.
Her staff are the wind beneath her wings. “I am a good business manager and my people skills are my best asset,” she says.
As senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Rainford is the highest-ranking African-American female at the bank and the first African-American to reach the level of senior vice president. She oversees the real estate and general services division and the multi-million capital improvement project to upgrade and modernize the 80-year-old landmark Federal Reserve building in lower Manhattan. She is responsible for a $73 million operating budget, a $30 million capital improvement budget and 280 staff members in the operations and corporate services divisions.
Driven by a desire to coach and help women of color to achieve their full potential, especially Black women, two years ago she co-founded the Women of Color Mentoring Group for women at the bank who, at various points in their careers, have hit the glass ceiling. “Nothing motivates me more than having someone tell me that the guidance or counsel I gave them helped them in some way,” she says.
The bank’s expansive corridors are a far cry from her childhood in Elloree, S.C. “We moved so often, I attended four different elementary schools in a span of five years,” she says. Rainford learned to bend in the winds and used adversity to make herself stronger.
Her professional success and her giving back to her community are homage to the “two angels on her shoulders,” her grandmother and mother, both deceased. “Despite their lack of formal education, my late grandmother and late mother were two of the smartest women I have ever encountered,” says Rainford, who holds a B.A. in economics from Fordham University. “They taught me to work hard and to never give up.”