Financial MaverickMuriel Siebert

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Siebert was a rarity in the financial business: a female. She arrived in New York in 1954, determined to make it in the financial sector. She worked hard, and changed jobs several times when she discovered men doing the same work were paid more. Eventually, she decided to buy her own seat on the New York Stock Exchange. She had to have a sponsor, and the first nine men with a seat refused to sponsor her. The tenth finally agreed, but then the NYSE required that she get a bank loan to pay for most of the $445,000 fee …and no bank would give her a loan unless she already had the seat. “There would be no loan until I was accepted, and I couldn’t be accepted without the loan,” she said. It took two years to convince Chase Manhattan to give her the loan, and on December 28, 1967, she got her seat. But it galled her that it took a decade for the second woman to follow. “For 10 years,” she said, “it was 1,365 men and me.”

Even into the 1970s, men didn’t fully accept her. When she arrived for an event at the Union League Club, she was not allowed to ride the elevator. “I had to go through the kitchen and walk up the back stairs,” she said. After lunch, colleagues tried to escort her to the elevator to leave. Management refused, so in protest several of her colleagues followed her out through the kitchen. Once she was firmly established and successful, in part by creating her own firm, she donated millions to help other women get established in business and finance. “Women are coming into Wall Street in large numbers,” she said at a 1992 awards ceremony, “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.” Her company, Siebert Financial, still exists. Ms. Siebert died August 24, from cancer. She was 80.

From This is True for 25 August 2013