Women Who Forged The Way: Muriel Siebert
“There were no female role models, so I just blazed my own path.”
Muriel Siebert, known as Mickie to her friends, was the first woman ever to gain a seat at the New York Stock Exchange. On December 28, 1967, she joined 1,365 male members as the first woman, and she remained the only woman at the NYSE for a full decade. Muriel was a woman who wouldn’t be stopped; she broke through, climbed over, or dug under any barrier that was put in her way until she got exactly what she wanted.
Muriel was absolutely unable to settle for a job where she was not able to do the same work and earn the same as the men in her industry. “Part of my career goal was ‘Where can I go where there is no unequal pay situation?’” she said. “That’s why I decided to buy a seat on the stock exchange and work for myself.”
When she was just 26-years-old she moved to New York in her old Studebaker with $500 in her pocket to do just that – make a space for herself on Wall Street when no other woman ever had. She changed jobs three times after learning that her male counterparts were paid more and changed her name to M. F. Siebert on her resume to try and get her foot in the door with employers.
Even after she established herself as a force to be reckoned with, her gender was still used against her. In the early 70’s she arrived at a board luncheon meeting for the Sales Executive Club at the Union League Club, a Manhattan social club, and was not even allowed in the elevator because she was a woman.
“I had to go through the kitchen and walk up the back stairs,” she said. She was so angry in the meeting that everyone paused to ask her what was wrong. Unlike past instances, however, her male colleagues rallied around her and tried to take her down in the elevator with them. When she was again told “no” by the establishment, they all went down the back stairs and through the kitchen together.
A Pioneer in Her Industry
“When a door is hard to open and if nothing else works, sometimes you just have to rear back and kick it open.”
It was not, as you might expect, an easy path for Muriel to tread. When she first applied for a seat 9 of the 10 men she asked to sponsor her application denied. They then told her she had to obtain bank loans for $300,000, but those same banks would not lend her the money until she gained a seat. Finally, after relentlessly pushing for membership, she gained it right before the turn of the year.
Muriel was not just a pioneer for women in the financial industry, but in her field altogether. In 1975, on the first day the board members were allowed to negotiate commissions, she turned her brokerage (Muriel Siebert & Company) into a discount brokerage.
In 1977, just a decade after she bought her seat, she became the first woman to become Superintendent of Banking for New York State and served for 5 difficult years as banks struggled and interest rates skyrocketed.
A Woman to be Reckoned With
“If I was dealing with a trader, every other word had to be a four-letter word.”
Muriel was famous for her aggressive attitude and her reputation as a “scrapper”, which gave her great pleasure. “When people work under a lot of pressure, the language can get rough. I learned all my foul language at the trading post. It doesn’t mean a thing to me. They’re just words.”
Muriel Supported Other Women
“Take stands, take risks, take responsability.”
Despite Muriel’s ferocity and desire to succeed, she was always looking for ways to help other women progress. She was the first, but she was determined not to be the only. She invested, donated, and lent millions to other women to get their businesses and financial careers off the ground.
After the Social Club incident in the early 70s, Muriel passionately lobbied against discriminatory policies like the ones she faced there. These venues were key places where deals took place, and so any woman not allowed inside was also being denied the opportunity to network.
In 1987 she was got a ladies’ room installed on the 7th floor of the NYSE by threatening the exchange’s chairman that if one was not there by the end of the year, she would have a portable toilet delivered.
Even in 1992 when a luncheon was held in her honor, she used the opportunity to speak further on equality on Wall Street and how the fight had to continue. She continued to fight for equality in the financial industry for the rest of her life.
Muriel died in Manhattan in August of 2013, at age 84, from complications of cancer, having made it possible for thousands of women work in Wall Street. It’s often easy to forget that half of the world’s population was alive when women were treated as lesser than, when women like Muriel had to fight to even be considered on equal footing as any man, regardless of education, experience, or intelligence.
We have women like Muriel to thank for the way things are today, and we can honor her by continuing the work she did. Muriel was a woman who wouldn’t suffer fools gladly, but she was always there to support other women. It’s easy to get caught up in being competitive, especially in an environment like Wall Street, but as women we’ve got to support one another until inequality between men and women is no longer a part of our culture.
That’s what we embody here at WeRise. We are passionate about making sure every woman has tailored financial advice that ensures they reach their financial goals, so they can make their own mark in history.