Remembrances
4:46 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

Muriel Siebert Was One Of the First Women Of Wall Street

Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 5:30 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Muriel Siebert, the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, died over the weekend in Manhattan. She was 84. As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, Siebert was a pioneer who broke down numerous doors in the male-dominated world of Wall Street.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Even in 2013, there aren't a lot of women who reach the top of the financial world. When Muriel Siebert started out in the 1950s, it was unheard of. Born in Cleveland, she arrived in New York City with $500 and an old Studebaker, and got a job doing research at Bashen(ph) Co. After working her way up the ladder for years, Siebert grew frustrated by the pay disparities that were routine on Wall Street.

So she turned to famed investor Gerald Tsai, and asked him a question. Where could she find a job that would pay her as much as a man?

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MURIEL SIEBERT: And Gerry said to me, don't be ridiculous; you won't. Buy a seat. Work for yourself. And I said, don't you be ridiculous.

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)

ZARROLI: But Siebert soon came around to the idea and by late 1967, she had become the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Over the years, she compiled a long list of firsts. She was the first woman to head a member firm on the exchange, and the first woman to be named superintendent of banking in New York.

Over the years, Siebert gave plenty of time and money, in an effort to nurture young women trying to make it in finance. Life isn't a dress rehearsal, she would say.

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SIEBERT: You have to have enough faith in yourself so you can say, I can do it. You can't expect to go through life and take a chance, and not make a mistake from time to time.

ZARROLI: And when young women began arriving on Wall Street in significant numbers in the 1970s, many viewed Siebert as something of a legend. Melissa Fisher is a visiting professor at NYU, and the author of the book "Wall Street Women."

MELISSA FISHER: And they really saw her as a path breaker; as somebody who'd sort of paved the way at least for the idea, the possibility that a woman could be a professional on Wall Street, which was something that the American public and Wall Street had never, possibly, imagined.

ZARROLI: Siebert seemed to enjoy the status she had earned, and made frequent public appearances. And during those appearances, she often let her frustration with Wall Street show. For all the progress that's been made, she said, there still aren't enough women reaching the top rungs of power.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.