My first job was as an investment banker. Yes, I wore banker blue Brooks Brothers suits for 2 years (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone;). This was longer ago than I’d like to admit. There were few women in finance, but the numbers seemed to be growing. Back then, there were a select handful of Wall Street women at the forefront, in senior roles paving the way for the rest of us. Muriel Siebert, who passed away at age 84 yesterday, was one of the few, and she was truly a pioneer. She was the first woman to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, having been admitted in 1963. I had the pleasure of meeting her once. She was whipsmart and a force for change and good.
Unfortunately, change in the finance industry has happened much slower than either Muriel, myself or womankind would like or expect. Rachel Sklar wrote an amazing piece on this yesterday that inspired me to share my own thoughts here. Rachel’s piece included the below Siebert quote:
“Firms are doing what they have to do, legally,” she said. “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.”
Muriel said this in 1992, nearly 30 years after securing her NYSE seat. I feel like this quote could have just as easily come out of my mouth in 1999. And I, sadly, have the feeling that some form of this quote is still being uttered by women up and down Wall Street today.
So what’s going on here? Where is the change? Where is the acceptance/acknowledgement that women, who are graduating college at higher rates than men, are more than qualified to make it to the senior ranks? And, of course, that women are worthy of, and deserve, equal pay. It turns out that change, on a societal scale, happens slowly. This is not just evidenced by gender issues, but also that of race and sexual preference.
It is sad, but true, that women in finance (and tech and government and lots of other industries) often have to work twice as hard as men, and still don’t achieve the same title/responsibility/pay. It is also sad, but true, that when women write about it, men often quip that we are having a pity party (as evidenced by several ridiculous comments by men that appear below Rachel’s article). But, as Muriel stated, “we must keep fighting.” Be a “Doer”, as actions speak louder than words. Take charge, push through the bullshit, and become whatever your version of Muriel Siebert or Hillary Clinton or Marissa Mayer looks like.
This is why I am 110% in support of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” initiative. I don’t agree with everything Sheryl says or writes, but I am in full support of a resurgence of the Feminist Movement. And for those of you that don’t like the word Feminist, call it whatever you want. The word is less important than the belief and the action and the coming together of women to help and support each other and our own cause. Ladies, lets keep fighting to be the change we wish to see in our industries – and the world.