Muriel Siebert: First Female Member of the New York Stock Exchange
After Woodhull and Claflin, it would take nearly another hundred years for the next woman to make her big mark on Wall Street. Known as “The First Woman of Finance,” Muriel Siebert had a knack for, well, firsts.
Siebert arrived in New York City in 1954 as a college dropout “with $500, a Studebaker and a dream.” She started her career in finance doing securities research and eventually achieved partner status at leading brokerage firms before finally branching out on her own. She became the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967, as well as the first to run an NYSE member firm, Muriel Siebert & Co. It had been an uphill battle, however; nine out of the 10 men she asked to sponsor her application turned her down, and it took two years before she found a bank that was willing to loan her the money to cover the high price of membership.
Then in 1975, on the very first day NYSE members were permitted to negotiate commissions, Siebert turned her company into a discount brokerage firm, claiming pioneer status in the burgeoning field. But she didn’t stop there. Siebert later became the first woman to serve as New York State’s Superintendent of Banks, holding the position for five years.
Irritated by Wall Street’s gender ratio (as she put it, "For 10 years, it was 1,365 men — and me”), Siebert donated millions of dollars to help other women get started in finance, while also standing up for minorities in the industry. She was an early and outspoken advocate of women’s inclusion in Manhattan social clubs, and famously threatened to have a portable toilet delivered to the NYSE’s seventh floor, near the exchange’s restaurant, unless the chairman installed a ladies’ room there. When asked about her approach to roadblocks, she once said: “I put my head down and charge.”