Women Shaping History 2004:
Muriel Siebert: First Woman of Finance
Factors in Career
when I came to New York from Cleveland, with $500 and a used
Studebaker, I wanted to work at the United Nations, but found
that I did not have the language qualifications. I had visited
the New York Stock Exchange before on a school trip, and
thought it was an exciting business, and because of my facility
with numbers, I started to apply to various firms.
Obstacles: Unexpectedly, I first encountered bias when I started
to apply for jobs in the financial area. I discovered that
if I used my name on a resume, I could not get an interview,
so I sent out resumes with my initials, and got in the door.
After being turned down for my first job offer because I did
not have a college degree, I said I had a college degree (indeed
I was a college drop out for personal reasons) and found my
first job. I was lucky. As my first assignment, an analyst
trainee, I was given transportation and media, which lent themselves
to my number skills, and I progressed from there.
Pivotal Points: There were many pivotal points, as my career
grew more successful. I decided to try to buy a seat on the
New York Stock Exchange, in order to be paid equally (the idea
came from a client). There had never been a woman member at
the NYSE; on December 28,1967, I became the first woman member
of the Exchange.
In October of 1977, Governor Hugh Carey asked me to become
the first Woman Superintendent of Banks for the State of New
York. I took this as a challenge and accepted, putting my firm
in a blind trust. I found the world of banking changed my thinking,
broadened my horizons, and gave me a global view. I had the
opportunity to see for the first time that people who can least
afford it, pay the most for services, basically because they
do not have knowledge about money. When I returned to my firm
five years later, I decided I would do something about this
Meanwhile, the securities business was changing, we had become
a discount broker on the day it became legal in 1975 and continued
to keep up with all of the latest features of the business...but
in the back of my mind were always how to give people financial
information, so that they had an equal chance.
Achievements: I was in the forefront of women business owners
who made a difference. At various levels we banded together
in organizations like the International Women's Forum, the
Committee of 200 and the New York Women's Agenda. As President
of NYWA, a body with some 100 Presidents of women's groups
in New York City, I found the venue to do something about a
school program - to teach high school students the basics of
the real world. After our first go round, we expanded the program
to follow the New York State Standards to teach senior high
school students the basics of the real world. Money, banking,
credit and credit cards, taxes, budgeting, saving and investing,
with a background for the teachers, lesson plans for the students
and homework assignments.
In this current spring semester, this core curriculum is being
introduced in the New York City high schools within the required
economics course for seniors.
Mentors: When I started out, there were no mentors. The word
itself did not have meaning for women in the financial world.
Advice: Work hard; know your
business better than anyone else. Be prepared to move on
if your employers under-appreciate your talents. Make friends.
Keep your integrity. There is no substitute for integrity.
Goals: Take the school program national. Try to make the world
a little better than I found it. Take a real vacation.#