By: Megan Anderson, Vice President of Public Relations
In honor of Women’s History Month, this article spotlights three icons of the financial industry and how they didn’t let fear hold them back. We will also discuss traits these women had in common and ways we can embody these traits so that we become icons for the people around us.
Henrietta “Hetty” Green, who became known as the “Witch of Wall Street,” was born in 1834 to the wealthiest family in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Despite the mores of the time, both her father and grandfather felt it was important for her to understand business and finance. She even began reading financial journals with her father when she was just six years old.
In 1865, her father and aunt passed away, leaving her with an inheritance that was reportedly worth $7 million. She became a major investor on Wall Street, growing her fortune to over $100 million by the time she died in 1916.
Hetty believed that women could do anything men could. She is known for saying:
"It is the duty of every woman, I believe, to learn to take care of her own business affairs."
"A girl should be brought up as to be able to make her own living."
"Whether rich or poor, a young woman should know how a bank account works, understand the composition of mortgages and bonds, and know the value of interest and how it accumulates."
Hetty helped form the generational belief that women are worthy and capable of anything men can do.
Like many of us, Muriel “Mickey” Siebert was driven by a vision. She believed America needed more women in leadership and that we were at a disadvantage without a woman’s insight and perspective.
When Mickey moved to New York city, she had $500 to her name and a couch to sleep on. Her goal was to break this glass wall into the finance world. Mickey began working her way up the ladder, changing jobs three times because she was being paid less than her male counterparts.
One day she asked a co-worker, “Where could I work and get equal pay as a man doing the same work?”
He replied, “You would have to buy a seat on the stock exchange.”
Though she had to ask ten people before finding a sponsor and wait two years before a bank loaned her the money, on December 28, 1967, Mickey became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, joining the 1,365 male members at that time. She remained the only woman for ten years.
Mickey started Muriel Siebert & Company in 1969 and then in 1977, she was chosen as New York’s first female superintendent of banking by Governor Hugh Carey, who had noticed her hard work. Of note, no banks in New York shutdown while she held the position. Her philanthropy was also well known, as she started the Siebert Entrepreneurial Philanthropic Plan in 1990 and was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1994.
After she passed away from cancer in 2013, the New York Stock Exchange named a room after Mickey, the first time that honor was bestowed on a person.
Known as the First Woman of Finance, Mickey didn’t wait for opportunities to come to her. As she has said, “When a door is hard to open, and if nothing else works, sometimes you just have to rear back and kick it open.”
Kicking doors open is exactly what Carla Harris has done over the last few decades as one of the first black women to hold a top leadership position at Morgan Stanley.
Carla began her career there in 1987 after getting her MBA from Harvard University. In a career that has spanned three decades, she has served as a Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor.
Among her many accolades, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council in 2013, and has been named to Fortune Magazine’s list of “The 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America,” Fortune’s Most Influential List, U. S. Bankers Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance (2009, 2010, 2011), Black Enterprise’s Top 75 Most Powerful Women in Business (2017), and “Top 75 African Americans on Wall Street.”
Growing up, Carla was surrounded by strong women who encouraged her, from her grandmother who said, “Whatever you be, be good at it,” to her mother who told her, “Listen. The world’s not fair. So if you want an A, go for the A-plus. Be so outstanding that there is no debate.”
As Carla has shared, they “sparked the appetite for excelling.”
In her recent TED Talk, Carla shared her “pearl” of wisdom about the importance of finding a sponsor, someone who “who will speak on your behalf in the top-level, closed-door meetings you're not invited to (yet).”
As she reminds us, “Never forget that your ‘authentic self’ is your competitive advantage.”
Hetty, Mickey and Carla share many important traits that helped them succeed, including their sense of purpose and self-worth. They didn’t care that positions like seat owner on the New York Stock Exchange or Morgan Stanley executive were never held by women. They believed they were worthy of reaching these goals.
Today, thankfully, we no longer need to be the first woman to reach these accomplishments. But reading these stories can spark our own courage to achieve our purpose, and they remind us that these women succeeded because of the work they put into reaching the top.
That’s why being a forever learner is another common trait these women shared. As mentioned, Hetty began studying the markets around the age of six with her father. She later said, “Before deciding on an investment, I seek out every kind of information about it.”
And Muriel stated it perfectly when she said, “Do homework all your life.”
The Certified Mortgage Advisor (CMA) course is a great opportunity to embrace being a forever learner. CMA will teach you how the financial system works. You will learn about economic and housing reports, candlestick patterns, recession indicators and how to use mortgage debt to create sustainable lifelong wealth for your clients. This course empowers you to step away from being a salesperson so you can step into being an advisor or icon for your clients. And in Hetty’s, Mickey’s, and Carla’s spirit of women empowering women, I’d like to offer you an exclusive $400 discount for this course. Simply use the code VISION upon sign up.
Hetty, Mickey and Carla also embodied servant leadership. They weren’t just focused on reaching their own goals. Instead, they wanted to create a culture where generations of women would feel worthy enough to step up and take their own risks.
They also weren’t afraid to take risks – after all, they had to if they wanted to achieve something no woman had before. But they didn’t take blind risks. They put in the work and research to make and take educated risks.
We can do the same thing.
We can follow in the footsteps of these women and continue to forge a path for women in the financial markets. First, it takes a belief that we are worth it. Then we must put in the work, research, and time so that our stories inspire current and future generations to come – just like these icons have done.