History, societal norms, and our perception of ourselves are inseparably intertwined.
I write this blog in recognition of International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is more than just a novelty holiday. It honors the people who toiled for women’s right to vote, own property, and to even participate in the stock exchange. Literally, women were arrested and fined for voting. It’s hard for us to imagine times like these, but even today there are places where women’s influence is missing.
Because of history, societal norms, and the subsequent perception women have of themselves, the financial industry is sadly still deficient of feminine skills and influence. Being male dominated, some women have perceived themselves as incapable or not as the “right fit” for our industry. However, I look to women who broke barriers and slowly changed the norm for inspiration.
I want to introduce five women who made their mark on financial history and point out truths we should learn from them.
1) Abigail Adams
Adams became the first lady in 1797. Her husband, John Adams, entrusted her to manage their finances. This was not a common state of affairs in those days. However, he hoped she would do something traditional like investing in farmland.
Interestingly, she successfully invested in U.S. government bonds, making her one of the first documented female bond speculators. Alexander Hamilton championed the government bond system. It is no secret that John Adams and Hamilton did not get along, and Adams did not support the idea of bond speculation.
It was therefore quite bold of Mrs. Adams to take charge of the finances, trust her own judgment, and challenge the status quo to create wealth for her family.
Lesson to learn: Put your plans into action. Money is not made by sitting comfortably and idly. Make a plan and do it!
2) Victoria Woodhull & Tennessee Claflin
These sisters have a controversial background, but their contribution to female influence in the stock market cannot be ignored. Their family used the sisters in their sales’ business quite young, but it helped them amass wealth. The family business also helped them befriend Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Victoria & Tennessee used this wealth and influence to open the first female-owned brokerage firm on Wall Street in 1870. Woodhull later ran for president and used her wealth to further women’s causes.
She notably quoted, “Woman’s ability to earn money is better protection against the tyranny and brutality of men than her ability to vote.”
Lesson to learn: Sometimes opportunity is given to you simply because of who you are or who you know. While you should never exploit your privileged state, you shouldn’t be afraid to use your influence to enact positive change. This goes for the men reading too!
3) Muriel Siebert – The First Woman of Finance
Siebert was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and to head one of its member firms. This didn’t occur until 1967! She was outnumbered by males 1,365 to 1.
She was mockingly called The PowderPuff of Wallstreet. Muriel had to ask 10 different male colleagues to back her efforts to acquire a seat before one said yes. Despite the lack of initial support, she was wildly successful. She was accepted and respected, but it took time. In fact, it took 20 more years before a ladies’ restroom would be installed on the trading floor!
Lesson to learn: “This is your sacred work. Do not go home. Walk into that room and claim your space,” said author Colleen Haggerty in Tara Mohr’s book, “Playing Big.”
When you find a job that is more than a job… when you find your vocation like Siebert did, don’t give up on it when the first hurdle comes. Persevere, and persevere boldly! Claim. Your. Space.
4) Rosemary McFadden
McFadden became the president of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) in 1984. That made her the first female president of any U.S. stock or futures exchange.
She started as a staff lawyer and worked her way up at the NYMEX. During her tenure, heating oil, gas, and propane future contracts increased from 5 million to 34 million! She is known for building relationships with senior officials, supporting the expansion of global futures markets, and even leading the launch of an online brokerage business in Japan, Hong Kong, and the Middle East. She went above and beyond general expectations.
Lesson to learn: McFadden didn’t slowly creep her way into her new positions. She leaped.
Many women are over-educated and over-trained, because they feel they must be 110% qualified. Excessive education and experience helps women feel like they belong in their role. Take a lesson from McFadden and leap into new roles. Learn on the job just like most men do. Be bold, enact change, and push past your role’s perceived limitations. BECAUSE YOU BELONG THERE.Leap into new roles. Learn on the job just like most men do. Be bold, enact change, and push past your role’s perceived limitations. BECAUSE YOU BELONG THERE. Click To Tweet
Finance is such an interesting field. Financial Planning especially is a beautiful blend of numbers, humanity, and multi-tasking. Women are made for these things!!
Some theorize that women are even better investors. A study from the Rothstein Kass Institute suggests that women-run hedge funds outperformed by a margin of six percentage points. Read more about that from this World Economic Forum article.
Currently, only 23% of Certified Financial Planners™ are women. I want to see that number grow! Both men and women are equipped and capable of building clients’ financial legacy. Clients are best served with a diverse team. Read more about what advisors do from the CFP Board. Maybe you or someone you know might find their calling!
I want to recognize women who fought for women’s right to be represented: Susan B. Anthony, Mathilde Anneke, Elizabeth Stanton, Lucy Stone, Ida Wells, and more. Please take a moment to read and learn about these suffragists.