Wall Street may still be dominated by men, but now, for the first time in its 226-year history, it will be led by a woman.
The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has appointed its chief operating officer, Stacey Cunningham, as its first female president, a spokesperson told Reuters on Monday. Cunningham will step into the role on Friday, according to CNN.
The appointment of a woman to the head of the NYSE is a major milestone for women in finance, especially considering the fact that the first time a woman, Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, made a trade on the floor was just 51 years ago. When Siebert found out she was being paid less than her male counterparts, she quit her job, started her own firm, and spent $445,000 to buy a seat on the NYSE, paving the way for future generations of women to break into the finance industry.
“I was a woman trader on the floor, and I never thought about it — I never thought for a moment whether or not that could happen, and whether or not that was an opportunity available to me,” Cunningham told TheStreet in March. “And it’s because Muriel paved the way. I think it’s just really important to recognize that any time a woman pushes the boundaries and redefines the boundaries, she’s redefining them for everyone else that follows her.”
And now Cunningham is the one pushing boundaries. The promotion to president is also a major personal achievement for Cunningham, who began her career at the exchange as an intern in 1994, according to NPR.
Since the moment I stepped onto the trading floor, the @NYSE has always held a special place in my heart. I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization. pic.twitter.com/600GP34hZe— Stacey Cunningham (@stacey_cunning) May 22, 2018
Though Wall Street has long been considered a boys’ club, women are finally gaining seats at the table — specifically at the head of the table. In January 2017, Adena Friedman became the Chief Executive Officer of the Nasdaq Stock Market, meaning that two women now hold two of the most powerful positions on Wall Street.
Still, Wall Street has a long way to go to establish gender equality. Despite grand gestures — like the “Fearless Girl” statue — meant to encourage financial firms to empower women and fight gender discrimination, sexual harassment, gender bias, and gender-based income inequality persist on Wall Street.
“We still struggle to get the more equal ratio of women in finance in general,” Cunningham told TheStreet.
But as more women, perhaps inspired by Cunningham, enter and rise throughout the financial field, there is hope for change.
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