Muriel Siebert made history by taking stands, risks and responsibility

Muriel “Mickie” Siebert knew how to get things done.

As the first women to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (and only one among 1,365 men for the next 10 years), Mickie set an example of fiscal shrewdness and responsibility for investors of all genders.

Called home in the wake of her father’s illness, Mickie never graduated from college. Still, she built such an impressive career in finance that Case Western University bestowed on her an honorary doctorate for her “groundbreaking career and advocacy for women in finance.”

Mickie earned the nickname “First Lady of Finance” and her accomplishments both elevated and transcended her gender. As New York’s Superintendent of Banking, she shepherded the state’s institution through a troubling period without losing a single bank. In 1969 she founded the first female-owned brokerage firm, Siebert Brokerage, which continues to thrive today.

The day after Congress granted brokers the right to charge flexible rather than fixed commissions in 1975, Siebert, who had positioned her discount brokerage firm perfectly for this development, ran a full-page newspaper ad that showed her cutting a $100 bill in half with a pair of scissors. The stunt attracted customers, but offended her clearing house, which gave her 60 days to move her accounts. She managed to do this, despite some difficulties.

Symbolic of her lifelong efforts to encourage female investors, Siebert also famously managed to get a women’s bathroom installed on the seventh floor of the NYSE by threatening to have a porta-potty placed there instead. In 1990 she established the Siebert Entrepreneurial/Philanthropic Plan (SEPP), a program that donates to charity 50 percent of the net commission revenues Muriel Siebert & Co. earns on sales of new-issue equity, municipal, and government bonds.

Though she died of cancer in 2013 at the age of 80, Muriel Siebert continues to influence the world of finance through her thriving business and enduring philosophy, “Take stands. Take risks. Take responsibility.”