I’m still walking on air from meeting Muriel Siebert last night as she was recognized and honored as an extraordinary leader and a “game-changing feminist icon” whose life work has paved the way for women in finance. The Making A Difference for Women Awards Dinner committee couldn’t have chosen a more influential woman than “Mickie” as she is known to us in the world of finance.
Although women do represent some 51% of those in US corporate management, too few (15-17%) make it to the top, and only 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female. Muriel trailblazed a path for women to follow her, becoming the first woman member of the New York Stock Exchange in 1967! She began as a research trainee at Bache & Company earning $65 per week, and doggedly worked her way up to partner status at Finkle & Company and later at Brimberg & Company.
As partner she’d made huge money for her colleagues, and yet nine of the first 10 men she asked to sponsor her in 1967 for a seat on the NYSE turned her down. She persevered through being patronized and openly ridiculed as a woman in finance, yet did she stop? Thankfully NO!
She exhorts US industry and government leaders urging, “The men at the top of the industry and government should be more willing to risk sharing leadership with women and minority members who are not merely clones of their while male buddies. In these fast-changing times we need the different viewpoints and experiences, we need the enlarged talent bank. The real risk lies in continue to do things the way they’ve always been done.”
Witness her action to declare Muriel Siebert & Co. the FIRST New York Stock Exchange member firm to become a discount brokerage house on May 1, 1975–the absolute first day the NYSE permitted firms to negotiate commissions. Later in 1977 she took a leave of absence from Muriel Siebert & Co. (placing her firm in a blind trust) to accept the appointment as New York State’s first women Superintendent of Banks, charged with ensuring the safety of all banks and many other financial institutions in New York State.
As we chatted about the significant changes in the field of finance over the last 45 years, I told her I wish she was STILL in that post today; i.e., we would not have experienced the carnage we have with her no nonsense approach to risk and the management of same. She cocked her head, gave me that “Mickie” wink, and emphatically responded “Absolutely NOT!”
She strongly advocates that women save for their retirement, even small amounts each month, so that compounding can work FOR us, instead of against us. We can no longer be ignorant about investing for our futures, as due to inflation, it will cost us more to live. She urges all women to be prepared by investing a portion of our funds into stock mutual funds or stocks–yet stock mutual funds spread the risk which may be most appropriate for female investors who otherwise may be unnerved at short-term price fluctuations of individual stocks.
Where can you find Ms. Siebert (who holds 19 honorary doctorate degrees) today? She still oversees her firm’s day-to-day operations at all seven branches, stating quite proudly, “I sleep well at night, knowing that I’ve been competitive but honest, tenacious but scrupulous, tough but fair!”
Who could ask for anything more?