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Honoring Women's History Month

Let’s celebrate Women’s History Month and the incredible impacts women have had on access to financial empowerment and freedom. 

The visible history of investing is largely male (and white). In the stock market’s 200-year-old history, opportunities for women have been relatively few and far between. We’re honoring #WomensHistoryMonth by celebrating the often forgotten folks, featuring a weekly story of a woman who (sometimes quietly) broke investing or banking barriers and helped create a path for those who came after them.

Some of Wall Street’s oldest women’s icons in history, Abigail Adams and Victoria Woodhull, have their unique stories covered extensively, respectively on our blog. Additionally, we shared about four African American leaders in finance in our Black History Month coverage.

Muriel Siebert

To start, we’ll learn about Muriel Siebert, who was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, and the first woman to head one of the NYSE’s member firms.

Her journey to earning that seat wasn’t easy. Like many other women of her time, Muriel had to prove herself constantly in an industry culture that did not believe women had the same financial skill or knowledge. The first time she applied for a NYSE seat, nine of the ten investors she asked to sponsor her application denied her.

Muriel Siebert, the first woman to own a seat on the NYSE

However, that blow didn’t stop her. In 1967, she founded her own eponymous firm, Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc, which did research for institutions while buying and selling financial analyses. Although Victoria Woodhull preceded her as the first woman to own a brokerage, Muriel is sometimes honored as the “first woman of finance”– which solidified when she was finally elected as an NYSE member on December 28, 1967. She was the only woman amongst 1,365 male NYSE members.

A decade later in 1977, Muriel was named Superintendent of Banks for the State of New York, overseeing all of the banks in the state, thereby regulating about $500 billion. During her tenure, not one bank failed– despite bank failures nationwide during that time.

Up until her final days in 2013, Muriel continued to to be a sought-after expert commentator on financial market trends, including by being interviewed in the 2003 documentary Risk/Reward. Her firm, now called Siebert, continues to serve thousands of people today.

Rosemary McFadden

Next, let’s bring our attention to the first woman president of any U.S. stock exchange– Rosemary McFadden. Rosemary began her Wall Street career as a staff attorney at the New York Mercantile Exchange, the world’s largest energy futures exchange. She was then promoted to Executive Vice President after only one year. The following year in 1984, she was elected as President and CEO by the Board of Directors.

During her tenure until 1989, NYMEX grew at an astounding rate of 70 percent per year. New crude, heating oil, propane and gasoline contracts traded on the exchange jumped from 5 million to 34 million. In fact, its crude oil contract even became the price reference point benchmark for spot and futures trading. NYMEX further expanded by opening offices in Asia and Europe. Rosemary’s scale of the career ladder and advancement of NYMEX's global position points to her incredible abilities to manage, oversee, and execute massive projects, partnerships and teams.

Rosemary McFadden, the first woman president of any U.S. stock exchange

After leaving the exchange, Rosemary remained an influential force in the expansion of global markets. She became a senior manager at the International Practice Group of Price Waterhouse, where she led developmental projects of capital markets in China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nepal, Russia and Ukraine. She worked with representatives of the World Bank, IMF and US Agency for International Development. Additionally, Rosemary advised national governments on rules, regulations and organizational structures for the development of their capital markets.

In 1997, Rosemary became the director of Global Business Development for DLJdirect, an online brokerage firm, and built their global market strategy. She led the company’s first-ever international expansion campaign, which included the launching of online brokerages in the UK, Hong Kong, Japan and the Middle East.

Across all her roles, Rosemary has been a powerhouse leader in the global financial sector, having led influential decisions that changed the course of economic dynamics worldwide.

Ann Kaplan

Our next feature is Ann Kaplan, who has worked towards financial empowerment for women throughout her career. Currently, she sits as a Partner of Circle Wealth Management and chair of Circle Financial Group, a peer-to-peer investment think tank. Additionally, she serves on the Boards of Columbia University, The Economic Club, The Museum of Art and Design, The Red Cross in Greater New York, the Board of Overseers of Columbia University Business School, the Goldman Sachs Bank and LearnVest. Ann is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the C200 and the International Women's Forum.

Her devotion to advocating for women’s financial health doesn’t stop at the institutional level. Ann teaches a course on wealth management at her alma mater of the Columbia University School of Business. She is a founder of the Center for Women’s Financial Independence at Smith College and offers financial wellness classes for women.

Ann’s work has established a culture amongst her peers where women are respected as experts in their fields. On a regular basis, Ann sits down with her female partners at Circle Financial Group, and each one shares their personal insights on the various investment markets today. It is believed that their mutually collaborative relationships are the key to their success, considering their management investment portfolios have historically been less shell-shocked by market volatility than even those of bigger banks.

Ann Kaplan

Ann developed this model while she was a partner of Goldman Sachs, promoting wealth management for women and leading the municipal bond department. Along with 11 other women who all worked in financial services, Ann formed a support group that empowered each member with the expert advice of the other group members. Each member has unique expertise in an area of Wall Street, ranging from municipal bonds, mortgage-backed securities, and asset allocation. Exchanging insights while honoring each other as women leaders has helped each member significantly in managing their own portfolios and those of their clients.

In a 2009 interview, Ann offered a key piece of advice for the rest of us:

“When we study what diminishes wealth, down markets and manager selection are not key figures. Instead, it is lack of diversification, overspending and borrowing too much. Build an effective checklist for your road to a healthy portfolio that includes planning, diversifying, monitoring investments, securing tax efficiencies and arranging for appropriate wealth transfer. All these factors have one thing in common: They are all things we can control.”

Janet Yellen

It would not be a Women’s History Month at Bumped without honoring our current Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. The 78th Secretary of the Treasury– and the first woman to carry the title–, Janet has been a powerhouse economist for almost fifty years across academia and public service. She is the first person in American history to have led the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, and the White House Council of Economic Advisors. To say she is anything less than an iconic dignitary would be an understatement.

A graduate of Brown University, with a PhD from Yale, Janet has also been an assistant professor at Harvard and a Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley. Her focal point has often been on the effectiveness of higher employee pay and improved working conditions, which her research found boosted the economy and labor productivity holistically.

In 1994, President Clinton appointed Janet to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Three years later, she was named the Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. In 2004, Janet took upon the role of President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Janet Yellen, U.S. Treasury Secretary

When the housing bubble popped in 2008, Janet helped manage the financial crisis and recession. Her service earned her the 2010 appointment of Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve, which later led her to become the Chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 until 2018.

Her accomplishments are quite profound. While a summarization could simply not do them justice, here are additional roles and honors she has held, to give you a full scope of the legacy she has created:

  • Distinguished Fellow in Residence with the Economic Studies Program at the Brookings Institution
  • President of the American Economic Association (2020-2021)
  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences member
  • Council on Foreign Relations member
  • Founding member of the Climate Leadership Council
  • Bloomberg New Economic Forum advisory board member
  • Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget advisory board member
  • Fix the Debt Coalition (CRFB) advisory board member
  • Washington Center for Equitable Growth Steering Committee advisory board member
  • Alumni fellow of the Yale Corporation
  • Honorary doctorates from Bard College, Brown, the London School of Economics, NYU, the University of Baltimore, the University of Michigan, the University of Warwick and Yale (from which she also received the Wilbur Cross Medal)

 

As if her background doesn’t speak for itself, Janet has truly been a powerful leader in American history. She is an empowering example for women in finance and economics everywhere– and we are proud to be celebrating her for years to come.

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