Women are excelling across all sectors. Whether it is research, medicine, law or sports, they are carving out a unique place for themselves. But, one arena where women representation has failed to match up to the levels of other industries is the finance sector. It is no secret that the financial industry is largely male dominated. The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap report says that female representation declined with a rise in career levels in the finance sector, with women comprising only 46% at the lower levels and a mere 15% at the top positions.
In the financial markets too, female pro traders in a department full of men were rarely seen till very recently. While the men had fathers, friends, golf buddies and college alumni to seek guidance from, women were just starting out. Despite all hurdles, however, there are women traders who have made their mark in the industry. Here’s a look at some of them.
One of the youngest female traders to grace the halls of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), 24-year-old Laura Simmons, an equity trader for Rosenblatt Securities, is both the youngest as well as the first full-time female trader on the exchange. Hailing from the town of Georgia, Simmons graduated from Kennesaw State University in December 2016, with a BA in Genetics and a minor in Statistics. Initially, she had wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but soon realised that her passion lay in numbers and the financial industry was the best place to pursue that. Although she started her employment in Rosenblatt Securities in March 2017, she still had to crack the tough series 19 exam, which all floor brokers need to pass. She did so the following year. Simmons’ advice for all aspiring female traders is to never limit themselves or get disheartened by disappointing online stats.
Before Laura Simmons, it was Muriel Siebert in 1967, who was the first female trader ever to trade on the NYSE floors. Before coming to the NYSE, Siebert worked as a research analyst in a Wall Street firm, Bache & Company. She impressed clients and seniors alike, and by 1965, she was made a partner at the brokerage firm Brimberg and Co. If you remember the late 60s was a tumultuous time for women in the US. They were fighting for equal pay and equal opportunities as men in their workplaces. Siebert also realised that she was paid much less than her male counterparts. She went on to buy a seat at the NYSE, for $445,000, and became the first woman eligible to trade in the institution. She would remain the sole female trader on the exchange for the next 10 years. In 1977, Siebert was appointed the first woman superintendent of banks in New York State.
As the daughter of Edward C. Johnson III, Chairman of Fidelity Investments, many would say that Abigail was born for the role of a leader and was groomed for it since childhood. But, she didn’t have it all that easy. After acquiring an MBA from Harvard, she started out in the company as a customer service executive, working her way through the ranks, to secure a position as an analyst and then as an equity portfolio manager. She served in this position for ten years, before she came up to the executive level. Abigail became the CEO and President of Fidelity Investments in 2014. Her net worth, as of 2019, is US$16.2 billion, making her the ninth wealthiest female billionaire in the world.
Founder of the prestigious $650 million hedge-fund company, Arbalet Capital, Jennifer is one of the youngest Asian-American women entrepreneurs and finance experts today. She graduated from New York University (NYU) at the age of 19, with degrees in finance, statistics and operation research. She was a star trader or portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley for a few years, and was later made a partner and portfolio manager at Arrowhawk Capital Management. In 2012, she started her own company, Arbalet Capital LLC, which subsequently closed in September 2013, due to the sluggish economy and departure of top investors. She is currently working at Millennium Management, LLC.
Like Jennifer, Kathy is also an alumnus of New York University, Stern School of Business, beginning her career in Wall Street at the age of 18. Today, she is one of the prominent female forex traders, with 20+ years of experience in the world of currencies. Lien started out at the interbank foreign exchange trading desk of JPMorgan Chase, before proceeding on to the company’s cross-markets proprietary trading group. She specialised in interest rate derivatives, FX spot trading, options and futures. In 2003, she started DailyFX.com; an online foreign exchange research portal that provides valuable research-based commentary on the forex markets to new investors. She currently heads the FX department at BK Asset Management in New York City. Lien is often quoted in financial publications like Reuters, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, due to her deep knowledge of the forex markets. She has also authored best-selling books on trading, such as Day Trading and Swing Trading the Currency Market.
These are only a few of the many inspiring women in the financial world. Sadly, the gender gap in the financial services industry remains a harsh reality even in 2019. Women are underrepresented at all levels of the global financial system, says a report by the International Monetary Fund. The report also throws light on how addressing this gap has benefits beyond just creating equality. The more women participate in finance, the greater will be the stability of the banking systems and economic growth. The IMF study also points out that women are better at carving fiscal and monetary policies. Financial institutions that hire women in top positions stay better managed and risk-averse.
It is good news that women are taking on new initiatives and starting their own businesses. The future looks bright.