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She is Some Kind of Dame
November | 2013


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Courageous Leadership

Muriel Siebert: She is Some Kind of Dame

" She is some kind of dame".

I usually did not hear my dad describe women in quite that manner and sitting in the back seat of our family car I, even at age 12, knew that this lady was someone special. My dad, a successful stockbroker on Wall Street was telling my mom about Muriel Siebert or Mickey, as he knew her and how he thought she was going to change the financial industry. "She plans on buying a seat on the New York Stock Exchange"(NYSE), my dad said, "there's never been a woman who has held a seat on the Exchange." As my dad was describing Mickey and her ambitions, my mom kept her eye on the road but under her breath, I was sure I heard her say, "You Go Girl".

Muriel Siebert came to New York from Cleveland in 1954 and was able to secure a job as a research analyst for $65/week with a brokerage firm. She looked to advance and found that wherever she went, the men were paid more than she was. In one of the first of her clever strategies to overcome sexism, she began sending out her resume under the name M.F. Siebert instead of using her full name. The results proved strikingly different in that she soon received multiple inquiries from prospective employers with just her initials.

It was the mid 1960s when she decided to strike out on her own and purchase a seat on the NYSE. Possessing a seat on the exchange means that you are a member of the exchange and can directly buy and sell stocks. At the time, there were 1366 men and no women members.

Part one of the process was to have a current member sponsor her. The first 9 men she asked turned her down but the 10th member agreed to sponsor her. Part two of the process was to come up with $450,000. The Exchange insisted she get a loan for at least $300,000, something they had never asked of a member before her application. And when she went to banks asking for a loan, they told her that they had to have a guarantee that the Exchange would accept her first. It was the classic Catch-22. It took Mickey two years to line up the financing and at the end of 1967 and for the next 10 years she was the only female member of the Exchange.

But as you can imagine, she was not twiddling her thumbs while waiting to hear about her application. She soon formed her own brokerage firm, Muriel Siebert and Company, and in the mid-1970s she transformed her company into one of the first discount brokerage firms. Not surprisingly Mickey continued to battle sexism in the workplace. As late as 1987 she lobbied the Exchange to place a ladies room on the seventh floor of the building nearby the dining room she frequented. When the NYSE told her they could not do that, she went directly to the Exchange's Chairman and told him that if a rest room was not there by the end of the year she would have a portable toilet put in. The rest room was installed immediately. Things slowly changed and in both 1998 and in 2008, the NYSE honored her by having her ring the closing bell on the 30th and 40th anniversary of her groundbreaking accomplishment.

She was a great supporter for women's advancement in business. She was an early advocate for a diverse workforce and believed that America's global competitive advantage would be significantly enhanced if American business embraced women leaders.

Muriel Siebert had a simple but clear approach to overcoming obstacles, "I put my head down and charge". My dad never had that kind of ambition but he sure knew a bull when he saw one.

 

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TED Talks

Drew Dudley is on a mission to help people see that small simple connections that show how much others mean to us and how much we want to support their success can provide a new definition of leadership. He describes everyday leadership as being as simple as giving away lollipops. .

 

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