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Muriel Siebert: The First Woman To Have A Seat On The New York Stock Exchange

Culture | December 28, 2019

January 16, 1968: Muriel Siebert appears pleased with what she sees on the ticker tape as well as hearing that she was elected to the New York Stock Exchange. The 38 year old Selling Analyst specializes in Aviation Securities. Source: Getty/Bettmann

The New York Stock Exchange isn’t a place for the faint of heart -- as the late Muriel Siebert, who became the first woman to win a seat on the exchange in 1967, could have told you. It’s a cutthroat atmosphere that requires you to make choices at the blink of an eye. Before Siebert, women weren’t allowed to have a seat on the stock exchange floor. Siebert fought tooth and nail to be allowed on the floor of the Stock Exchange. She jumped through hoops that no man would have to jump through and even founded her own firm. She didn’t let anyone tell her what she could and couldn’t do - she just did it.

Muriel Siebert's story is a tale that's inspiring to anyone who's ever been told that they can't do something that they know they're perfectly cut out for. She stood up for herself and took her rightful place in spite of the roadblocks that lied in her way. Her push to gain a role on the New York Stock Exchange was unprecedented, but that's the way things go when you're making history.

Siebert was locked out of the New York Stock Exchange

source: huffington post

After attending Western Reserve University from 1949 to 1952, Siebert dropped out of college and started working at different brokerages. At the time she was simply finding her sea legs in the industry. She did research for different financial institutions and performed analysis for various financial institutions.

In 1967 she founded her own firm, Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc. a company that should have let her get a spot on the Stock Exchange, but because she was a woman it wasn’t as cut and dried as it should have been. Prior to 2006, the NYSE was a private company, and its members had to buy membership -- called a "seat." As with many exclusive clubs, there was a process to gaining and keeping membership. Siebert asked ten different men to sponsor her seat on the exchange, nine of whom passed simply because they didn’t think that she belonged in the same place as the boys.

Throughout her time trying to gain acceptance on the New York Stock Exchange she became known as a brash and outspoken young woman. While that was likely an excuse for not giving her a seat on the Exchange it's likely that she wouldn't have gained the seat had she not been so forward.

Roadblocks were placed in her way at every point

source: Pinterest

By all realistic expectations Siebert should have been able to register for a seat at the New York Stock Exchange and call it a day, but the people in charge of deciding who gets to bid and who’s left out in the cold didn’t think that she was fit to bid; although it’s not clear why it was believed she couldn’t do the job. It was likely a mix of her femininity and the fact that she was Jewish.

After Siebert received a sponsorship for her seat, the NYSE balked at providing one for her and instead created a new step to getting a seat by insisting that she had to get a letter from a bank saying that she could get a $300,000 loan in order to pay for the $445,000 price for a seat. However, Siebert couldn’t get a loan until the Stock Exchange offered her a seat. It took two years for Siebert to push beyond this unnecessary gridlock and purchase her seat on the stock exchange, making her the first woman to own a NYSE member firm.

She took a job as the Superintendent of Banking

source: time

A decade after she earned her place on the New York Stock Exchange Siebert struck out on her own once again and became the first woman Superintendent of Banking for the State of New York. The job called for her to take a leave of absence from her firm in order to take responsibility for the safety and soundness for banks in New York State.

In the 1970s banks were failing across the country and it was basically her job to make sure the banks of New York stayed afloat. She was used to being tough, so she told bank managers that the initials of her job as the Superintendent of Banking was S.O.B. While she worked as the Superintendent of Banking from 1977 to 1982 no banks failed in the state of New York. 

It's clear that Siebert was the perfect person for the Superintendent job, and it's likely that she could have kept the role as long as she liked if she hadn't tried to get into government.

She ran for US Senate and got a woman’s room installed in the Stock Exchange

source: fox

Siebert very well could have stayed in her position as the Superintendent of Banking in New York but she had higher aspirations than that. In 1982 she ran for the U.S. Senate and lost, before returning to helm the company she launched in the late ‘60s. After returning to her spot on the Stock Exchange, Siebert was shocked that she had to continue dealing with the good old boy system. She wasn’t even allowed to use the elevator at the stock exchange and was forced to go through the kitchen and take the stairs in the building.

In 1987 Siebert successfully lobbied to have the Stock Exchange install a bathroom on the seventh floor near the entrance to the luncheon club that she often attended. When asked how she was able to get so much done Siebert said, “I put my head down and charge.”

Her message is one that works for anyone, not just women trying to get into finance. Instead of letting people tell her what she couldn't do she put on her blinders and followed her dreams.

While being honored she told women to keep fighting

source: new york times

After a lifetime of going where no woman had gone before, Siebert was honored at a luncheon in 1992. Rather than use the moment to rest on her laurels and congratulate herself she told women to keep their sights on their work and to be wary of men who stick up for one another before watching out for the little guy… or woman. She said:

Firms are doing what they have to do, legally. But women are coming into Wall Street in large numbers, and they still are not making partner and are not getting into the positions that lead to the executive suites. There’s still an old-boy network. You just have to keep fighting.

Tags: Muriel Siebert | New York Stock Exchange

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.