By Kelley Caponigro
Assistant to the Chairman & CEO
In recognition of Women’s History Month, R.W. Rogé & Company, Inc. would like to reflect on a few influential females throughout the history of financial services. In an industry that was historically made up of men, a handful of extraordinary women pushed their way into the field and helped pave the way for future generations.
The earliest documented female investor in U.S. history was first lady Abigail Adams. President John Adams asked Abigail to invest in farm land, but she invested in U.S. government bonds instead and received better returns. This seemingly small step was actually the first giant leap for females in the financial world.
In 1870, infamous sisters Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin opened the first female-owned brokerage firm on Wall Street called Claflin & Company. Although the women had custom “business dresses” made to hide their femininity, Newspapers broadcast headlines like, “the Queens of Finance,” “the Bewitching Brokers,” and “Wall Street Aroused.” Two years later, Woodhull became the first female candidate to run for President of the United States. She was a women’s rights advocate, and created a newspaper titled, “Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly,” which became well-known for discussing taboo topics of the time.
During the Great Depression Isabel Benham began working on Wall Street, signing her name “I. Hamilton Benham” in an attempt to conceal the fact that she was a woman. In 1964 she became the first female partner at a Wall Street bond house, and became a well-known analyst for the railroad industry.
In 1967 Muriel Siebert became the first woman to purchase a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, joining 1,365 male members. Nicknamed the “First Woman of Finance,” she founded her own firm, Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc., and has received a great deal of recognition for her contributions to the field.
In 1995, Maria Bartiromo became the first reporter – male or female – to report live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. She was often the only woman on the floor and was not welcomed by male traders, who frequently shoved and yelled at her. She stood her ground and has since earned multiple awards, and has created an impressive resume with positions at CNBC and Fox News Network.
More recently, our Managing Director Rosanne Rogé was named one of the Top 50 Women in Wealth for her pioneering work in Financial Geriatrics. She received this honor along with Muriel Siebert in July 2011.
Rogé commented, “I find it ironic that women are the minority in this industry, because the profession is whole-heartedly based on relationships and nurturing – things that are inborn to most women. In a single day I can discuss retirement planning with one family, talk to another client about the emotional toll of his father’s Alzheimer’s, and assist a third client through the beginning stages of her divorce. I’m not just a financial advisor; I’m a friend, a mentor, and someone who has dealt with seemingly unique situations ten times over. Relationship building isn’t something you learn about by getting certified or obtaining a degree. It’s second nature – especially to women.”
Although there are many female leaders in the industry today, they are the minority. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 women made up only 35.5% of personal financial advisors.
The industry is arguably a more welcoming profession for women than it was a half century ago. While we look back admiringly at the women who swam against the tide and created a space for females in the financial industry, we sincerely hope to celebrate more Muriel Siebert’s in the future. The best is yet to come. Happy Women’s History Month!
Sources: http://www.businessinsider.com/history-of-wall-street-women-2011-12#victoria-woodhull-and-her-sister-opened-the-first-female-owned-brokerage-on-wall-street-2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_Woodhull http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1806.html http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-06-11/isabel-benham-woman-who-blazed-path-on-wall-street-dies-at-103 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muriel_Siebert http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-financial-services http://www.biography.com/people/maria-bartiromo-4870#groundbreaking-report http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.pdf