It was 44 years ago today – December 28, 1967 – that Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, known as the “First Woman of Finance”, became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and gain membership with the prestigious trading institution, which is the world’s largest exchange. One of many “firsts” to come in Ms. Siebert’s impressive and epic career as a female leader in the financial industry, her rise to the top didn’t come without its challenges.
Like most professional women at that time, she encountered a significant amount of sexism and ridicule from her colleagues. When she first applied for a seat on the Exchange, she needed a sponsor for her application for membership. The first nine of the ten men she asked for support turned her down. Then, before considering her for membership, the NYSE imposed a “new requirement” – she needed a bank letter to show the secured funds for the record breaking $445,000 seat price. But the banks would not show her their commitment of the funds until the NYSE would confirm her admittance.
It took several months to overcome this imposed gridlock, but once elected, Ms. Siebert had her next first – she founded her own firm, Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc., making her the first woman to own an NYSE member firm and today, is still the only woman-owned NYSE brokerage firm with a national presence.
A decade later, in 1977, Ms. Siebert took a leave of absence from her firm to achieve yet another first, (her third if you are keeping track)… to serve as the first woman Superintendent of Banking for the State of New York. In this role, she was responsible for the safety and soundness of all banks and other financial institutions in New York State. This was the highest position in banking supervision or regulation ever obtained by a woman at the time. To reinforce her clout, she jokingly reminded the bankers that the initials for her title as Superintendent of Banking were “S.O.B.” Not one bank failed during her tenure, despite the many that failed nationwide.
In 1982, Ms. Siebert resigned as Superintendent to run in the Republican primary for the New York Senate seat of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She finished second behind State Assemblywoman Florence Sullivan, who went on to lose to Moynihan in the election.
Since her struggle to obtain her NYSE seat and throughout her career, Ms. Siebert has been a big supporter of women in finance and industry. As an advocate of women’s rights, Ms. Siebert developed the program Financial Literacy for Womenwith the non-profit group New York Women’s Agenda in 1998.
Financial literacy is somewhat of an obsession for Ms. Siebert. After launching the Financial Literacy program for women, she expanded her efforts to include educating young people about money matters too. She has invested over $1 million of her own money to develop a personal finance course for high school students. The course – The Siebert Personal Finance Program: Taking Control of Your Financial Future- is now a requirement in public high schools in New York City and includes financial management skills such as handling a checkbook and how to use credit cards, as well as the basics of money: banking, insurance, budgeting, taxes, etc. The Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of the nation’s largest urban public school systems, has distributed the program to each of its 64 member cities. Ms. Siebert hopes to see this program established nationally.
For Muriel Siebert, the secret to making a difference is to “take stands, take risks, take responsibility – the real risk lies in continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done.”
Congratulations to Muriel Siebert for her resolute rise to the top and her continued commitment to providing others with the tools to achieve success and make change.
Awards and Accolades
Ms. Siebert is currently on the boards of The Economic Club of New York, The New York State Business Council, the Greater New York Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Guild Hall Museum, to name a few. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Committee of 200 (an international organization of pre-eminent businesswomen), the International Women’s Forum, Deloitte & Touche’s Council for the Advancement and Retention of Women, and the New York Women’s Forum, for which she was a founder and president. Muriel Siebert is also a former appointee to the New York State Commission on Judicial Nomination and the National Women’s Business Council.
Ms. Siebert has received countless awards and honors throughout her career, including the first woman selected as “one who has made a difference” for the Working Women’s Hall of Fame. In 1994, she was inducted into the International Women’s Forum Hall of Fame in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY. Her most recent honors include the Town Hall Friend of the Arts Award, NAWBO First Signature Award for Lifetime Achievement as a pioneering woman’s business owner and, in March 2007, the “Pioneering Woman Award” from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC.