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When most people think of Wall Street, the image that comes to mind of the power brokers and deal makers is probably more men in suits than women in petticoats. But as we celebrate Women’s History Month, there are some very notable women who have set the stage for women in finance throughout history. Here are five women who have made investment and financial history, opening the doors for the women of today:
Empress Theodora (c. 497-548)
She was the wife of Emperor Justinian during the Byzantine era, and some say the most powerful woman of the Byzantine Empire. She is credited with having significantly expanded the rights of women, particularly in terms of owning property.
Victoria Woodhull (1839 – 1927)
Along with her sister, Tennie Claflin, in 1870 they opened the first brokerage owned by women: Woodhull, Claflin, and Company. Woodhull was the first woman to run for President, though she did so 50 years before women were allowed to vote. She was nominated by the Equal Rights Party and Frederick Douglass was nominated as her running mate (though he never accepted the nomination), and ran on a platform of gender and racial equality under the law. While her campaign was unsuccessful, she did make strides in the women’s suffrage movement, also becoming the first woman to directly address a congressional committee.
Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934)
She was the first woman to charter a bank in the U.S., the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia. Her goal was to foster economic independence in the Black community by promoting savings and home ownership. The bank, founded in 1903, remained until 2009 when it was purchased by Premier Bank, surviving for that time as the oldest Black-owned bank in the United States.
Muriel “Mickie” Siebert (1928-2013)
She had to lie about having a college degree to get her first job, but eventually became the first woman to become a member of the New York Stock Exchange (after working for several brokerages and getting frustrated with making less money than her male colleagues). She founded the Muriel Siebert & Company brokerage firm in 1969 (which is still in operation) and was named New York’s first female superintendent of banking in 1977. Muriel Siebert was known as the “first woman in finance.”
Janet Yellen (1946 - )
Janet Yellen is the first woman to hold the position of treasury secretary of the United States, though she is the 78th treasury secretary. She also served as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors (Clinton Administration) and chair of the Federal Reserve Board (Obama Administration). She is the first person (male or female) to have held all three positions. Yellen is a Professor Emeritus of economics at the University of California Berkeley, and has received honorary doctorates from a number of prestigious institutions, including the London School of Economics, NYU, and Yale University.
At Arnerich Massena, we’re proud of our own history of notable women on our leadership, ownership, and advisory teams. We were named one of Portland’s largest women-owned companies by The Portland Business Journal in 2018, and have built gender balance into our teams since our inception. We are dedicated to continuing to build on our history and grateful to those who came before. Cheers to all the women who have made financial history!