Rosa “Rosie” Gumataotao Rios may not be the first Latina to become Treasurer of the U.S. (five others have held the position), but she is nonetheless setting trends in other ways.

The name Gumataotao, from her husband, whose family is prominent on Guam, is part of her official signature and as such represents the first time that a Chamorro name appeared on U.S. currency. But Rios has been influential in far more important ways, such as trying to raise the level of financial literacy in the U.S.

A first-generation Mexican-American and one of nine children raised by a single mother, she worked to help out her family while still in school. With her mother as an inspiration, spurring her on, she attended Harvard University.

Rosie RiosWhen she returned to her home state of California, she focused on reinsurance and in economic development. A stint at MacFarlane Partners, where she was investments managing director, gave her the opportunity to work on urban investment and development in northern California.

While there, Rios volunteered for Barack Obama’s political campaign, and after he won the presidency, she took a leave of absence to join his Treasury-Federal Reserve transition team, serving as lead staffer for external stakeholder outreach on behalf of the Treasury.

Obama nominated Rios for treasurer in 2009, and since taking office she has been active in working to assist Americans affected by the recession.

She has also become an advocate of financial literacy and education. She organized the Women in Finance Symposium, which, according to the Women in Public Policy website, was intended “to recognize the role that women in the administration and the private sector were playing in the economic recovery, connect business organizations in support of Women in Finance and inspire future generations of women and girls who are considering finance, economic or business as a career.”

To that end, Rios was instrumental in the encouragement of women to apply for jobs within the Treasury and also the formation of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion.

Rios serves as an inspiration to the minority population. She also takes her role in educating the public on finance seriously; she can be found on the Web bloggingand giving personal finance lessonsto a Washington, D.C., class of 9th graders on YouTube. She also speaks frequently on Latino issues.

See the lead news article on the 2011 50 Top Women in Wealth.

See the article on the process for choosing the 2011 50 Top Women in Wealth.

See the 2010 50 Top Women in Wealth.