For many young girls today, this may be a valid question. But for many of us, we grew up with very few female role models in history books. Sure, we heard of Betsy Ross, we learned Bible stories about Eve, Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, and Mary. We even grew up with the U.K. having the longest reigning monarch who is a woman, Queen Elizabeth. But in the U.S., she was rarely mentioned and most of the history that was taught was centered around men’s accomplishments.
History books taught that the greatest scientists were Albert Einstein or Sir Isaac Newton. We did not read about the woman who invented the first computer algorithm – Ada Lovelace – who lived from 1815-1852, long before computers became a reality. Or Marie Curie, who discovered radioactivity and invented a mobile X-ray unit that was employed during World War I, and who won two Nobel prizes – one in chemistry and one in physics. Or chemist Rosalind Franklin, who is known for discovering the double helix structure of DNA. She passed away in 1958, four years before her male colleagues were awarded with the Nobel Prize in 1962.
It is only recently that we are seeing movies about women who made huge strides in science – notably, Katherine Johnson, who was featured in the film Hidden Figures. Her work on orbital mechanics helped put man on the moon!
In law and politics, there have been many milestones. Geraldine Ferraro became the first female candidate for U.S. Vice President. Hillary Clinton became the first female Senator from New York. Ruth Bader Ginsberg was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993, and the 2018 movie RGB made her a household name. It highlighted how she was the first tenured female Columbia Law School professor and co-authored the first casebook on sex discrimination. She was known for her stance on gender equality, most notably in the landmark United States v. Virginia case, which allowed women to attend the Virginia Military Institute.
But there were other notable women in law and politics in our history. Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for President in 1872. Genevieve Cline was the first woman appointed to a federal court in 1928 when President Coolidge nominated her for a seat on the U.S. Customs Court. She remained on the court for 25 years. Florence Allen, who had previously been a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1932, making her the first woman to be appointed as a judge to a federal appeals court. Currently, there are three women on the U.S. Supreme Court.
And in finance, a traditionally male dominated field, Abigail Adams, the wife of one U.S. president and the mother of another, was credited as being the first woman investor in the U.S. Her husband turned over the family finances to her, and she invested in government bonds, war bonds, and real estate, all of which were considered risky investments because the country was so young. Her strategy quadrupled her initial investment and made the family very wealthy.
Another 100 years would pass before Victoria Woodhull (before running for President) and her sister, Tennessee Claflin, became the first female stockbrokers in 1870. They catered to “Society wives, widows, teachers, small-business owners, actresses, high-priced prostitutes and their madams (in the women-only backroom)”.[i] They made a fortune off these investments, as well as on the money Cornelius Vanderbilt invested with them, contributing to his own large fortune.
In 1880, frustrated with being shut out of stockbroking on the New York Stock Exchange, Mary Gage started her own exchange — just for women who wanted to use their own money to speculate on railroad stocks. Ten years later Heddy Green (“The Witch of Wall Street”), known for her frugality, became the first woman stockbroker on Wall Street. After her first husband died and she remarried, she became the first woman to insist on a pre-nuptial agreement! Fifty years later in 1967, Muriel “Mickie” Siebert became the first woman stockbroker on the New York stock exchange. She had to ask ten men to sponsor her because the first nine turned her down.
Today, women make up 35% of investment advisors, 23% of Certified Financial Planner™ professionals, 19% of Chief Investment Officers at large institutional firms, 18% of Certified Financial Analyst® professionals, 12% of those who run private equity funds, 9% of heads of mutual fund companies, 8% of leaders of venture capital firms, and 3% of those who run hedge funds.[ii] According to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, “Female talent remains one of the most underutilized business resources.”[iii] As seen from the few women mentioned above, and the long span of time between mentions, financial services has historically been dominated by men. Although 46% of financial services employees are women, at the executive level, it’s only 15%.[iv]
When it comes to balancing gender equality, finance has simply not kept pace with many other professional fields, such as law, academia, and medicine. That’s despite the fact that women now receive the majority of college degrees in the United States across every category, from bachelor’s degrees to doctorates.
So, this month, we look back on the amazing women that preceded us in many professions and are happy to report that here at Wealthspire Advisors, women make up 44% of our employees and over a third of our advisors. If you want to work with one of our fabulous female advisors, contact us at www.wealthspire.com.