First Lady of Wall Street, Muriel Siebert
Siebert on being a first on Wall Street, her male colleagues, and women in finance today.
First Lady of Wall Street
Siebert on being a first on Wall Street, her male colleagues, and women in finance today. On August 24th, 2013, Siebert passed away at the age of 80. She leaves a remarkable legacy for women in business.
MURIEL SIEBERT: I had to have two languages. If I was dealing with a trader, every other word had to be a four-letter word. So I learned that language and still use it.
I was great at math. I can look at a page of numbers and they light up and tell me a story. Growing up, I was visiting New York and I visited the New York Stock Exchange. We were on the balcony looking down at the floor. I said, you know, this looks exciting. Maybe if I come to New York, I'll get a job on Wall Street. And I came with a used car and $500.
I was an analyst on a salary, but at the same time, these institutions were giving me orders. And I had a following, but I got about 60% of what the men got. I asked one of my clients what large firm could I go to where I'll be paid equally? And he said, don't be ridiculous. You won't. Buy a seat. Work for yourself.
My application turned the street upside down. And they said, we've never had a woman apply. Nobody would dare to apply. I was creating something no one had ever done before.
Some of the men thought a woman had no place on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. And yet, there were men who bent over backwards because they saw I was serious, and I was doing the job, that I wasn't there to play around. The toughest trader said to me, I really enjoy when I call you and give you an order, and I go home at night and I tell my daughter and my wife.
We were opening doors and the doors have opened and opened dramatically. Women are coming up very fast in running money. When I was growing up, money was not a proper subject for ladies. They don't talk that way today.
MURIEL SIEBERT: I got a call from Governor Kerry. I happen to be a bleeding heart Republican. Governor Kerry of course was a Democrat. And he said, "I want a woman as Superintendent of Banks. And your's is the only name that keeps coming back." I could not refuse that.
The job of Superintendent of Banks in New York is powerful. And I became the first woman Superintendent of Banks, or as I used to call us as SOBs. I also became the first Jewish Superintendent of Banks. Here I'm thinking to myself, Mickie, you know you're a college dropout? You've done pretty well as a college dropout.
MURIEL SIEBERT: I am passionate about teaching younger people personal financial literacy. When I was superintendent of banks, I started talking to these children that were 17 and ready to go bankrupt. They had gotten a credit card. They maxed it out. They got another one. They maxed it out.
And I started to study it. And I had it studied and I found out we do not teach younger people in schools personal financial literacy. Credit cards. Checking accounts. What are the deductions from your paycheck? Income taxes. Basics.
So I said to myself, if you're ever in a position to change this, you will. And five years later, I had rebuilt my firm and I started to say maybe I can do this now. I have three people that work hard on the program. It was in 100 schools in New York City and my goal is to make it national. I had a junior high school come to me this year and say, could you make a program for younger people? There's no reason people should get into trouble because they don't know.
MURIEL SIEBERT: I was an analyst at Bache. And Bache used to have one meeting a week where a company came in, and the partners were all in one room, and the analyst was questioning the head of the company. And I was given airlines.
And Captain Rickenbacker came in. And I was scared. Oh, was I scared. And I asked Captain Rickenbacker, "tell me how did you decide how to depreciate your airplanes?" Eastern Airlines used to depreciate their planes three different ways. I said, "because if you showed x dollars figuring it one way, x dollars to stockholders, and x dollars for internal"-- that was all in their footnote.
And he said, "young lady are you permanently employed? If not, there's a job for you at Eastern Airlines." And of course, the partners were shocked. Here's this young kid, and it's the first time that they knew I existed most of them.
And so I developed a following in institutions that when I recommended the sale or purchase of a stock, they knew that I knew the numbers on it.
MURIEL SIEBERT: Women today can do whatever they want to do. That was part of being a feminist. We opened up jobs for people. We created an equality for women. In 1977, I was a beneficiary of the woman's movement because I was appointed superintendent of banks and people never thought a woman could do that. Now, I mean, while I was the first woman superintendent of banks, they've had four since me, which is a good feeling.
MURIEL SIEBERT: I had bought my seat on the New York Stock Exchange December 28, 1967. I was very proud. I was overwhelmed with the newspapers. There was one story, Now the Girls Want to Play, and I'll never forget that article. The girls want to play. I mean, here I'm thinking about, I've got to make a payment on that loan. I'm still supporting my mother. I'm helping my sister who had a hysterectomy about that time. So I had a lot of responsibility.
MURIEL SIEBERT: There are more and more women trading stocks now and they're good, but they do hold their stocks longer. They're not in and out. I think women are more patient, where men, I think, have a little more-- what shall I say-- drive for the quick profit. And they'll often make the dime, but they'll leave a quarter behind.