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08/26/2013

Maverick Muriel Siebert, first woman to hold seat on NYSE, dies at age 80

Siebert
Muriel Siebert speaks at a finance summit in New York, in this November 13, 2003, Reuters file photo. 

Muriel "Mickie" Siebert was 22-years-old when she hopped in a used Studebaker and moved to New York City.

After the death of her father, Ms. Siebert abandoned her studies at Cleveland’s Flora Stone Mather College to seek out a living. She eventually found a job as an analyst -- after she lied about having a college degree. Ms. Siebert excelled at analyzing the entertainment and aviation industry, eventually becoming a partner at Brimberg & Co., but she set her sights on a bigger goal. She wanted a seat at the all-male "Big Board" of the New York Stock Exchange.

"When I started to bring in institutions on the research that I was doing, I wasn’t being paid what the men were making. Don’t misunderstand me: I was making a lot of money then. I was making a couple hundred thousand dollars a year -- that was back in 1967. And I asked a client, where can I go where I can get credit on the business I do? What big firm could I go to? He said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. Buy a seat, work for yourself,’” she said in a 1999 interview.

But gaining that membership was not easy. She needed to find two sponsors and nearly everyone she approached told her that the NYSE was too rough for women.

“There was all manner of concern for my delicate ears -- with several articles postulating that a woman couldn’t handle the rough language of Wall Street -- and many comments about the absence of a ladies’ room on the stock exchange floor,” Ms. Siebert wrote in her 2002 memoir, "Changing the Rules: Adventures of a Wall Street Maverick."

“Not since I was a baby had so many people been so interested in my bathroom habits,” she wrote.

She eventually found her sponsors and paid $445,000 for one of the NYSE's 1,366 memberships in 1967. Previously, women were only allowed on the trading floor as clerks or pages during wartime when the men were away. 

Ms. Siebert, who in 1977 became the first female banking superintendent for New York State and was the founder and CEO of Siebert Financial Corp., died of complications from cancer in Manhattan on Sunday. She was 80.

Siebert's chief operating officer Joseph Ramos, called Ms. Siebert one of the "great personalities on Wall Street of either sex."

"Those of us who worked with her will miss her spirit, leadership and great commitment to her clients and the securities market," Ramos said in a statement.

With files from Bloomberg

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga.

 

 

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