Muriel “Mickie” Siebert passed away this past weekend at the age of 84. She was the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the first female head of NYSE’s member firms, and the first female superintendent of New York’s banks.
When Siebert was in college, she was the only female student in her finance classes. She left college before graduating, though, because her father was sick. Eventually she moved to New York, where she sought work in the male-dominated financial industry. She found that when the New York Society of Security Analysts, the agency distributing her resume, sent her resume with her full name, she received no interviews. When they sent the resume with her initials, she got calls – because hiring managers could not tell she was a woman. When she finally got jobs, she left multiple of them after finding out the men there were being paid more than her. As she became more and more fed up with not earning the same amount as men, a male colleague suggested she “buy a seat [on the NYSE] and work for [herself].”
Of the 1,366 total seats on the NYSE, none, at the time, were filled with women. Siebert found it a difficult task to break into they boys club of Wall Street. The first nine men she asked to sponsor her for a seat turned her down. Men told her she could not be admitted because there were no women’s bathrooms for her and because “women couldn’t handle the rough language on Wall Street.” NYSE insisted she get a loan of $300,000 (of the total $445,000 cost to get a seat) from a bank before admittance, which they never asked of a man, but the banks required her to be admitted before giving her a loan. Eventually she got a sponsor and the loan, and purchased her seat in 1967. It would be a full decade before another woman would join her.
Siebert was also active off Wall Street. She donated millions of dollars to help women to break into the business and finance fields. In 1982, she made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate. Running as a Republican, she described herself as “very conservative fiscally and probably quite liberal in terms of people and human rights.” In 1999, she developed a high school curriculum to teach students about personal finance. She also was a member of the International Women’s Forum and the New York Women’s Forum.