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Mar 1, 2022

7 financial pioneers to honor this Women’s History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating some of the female leaders who broke the glass ceiling of finance. Here’s the kicker: Women couldn’t open a bank account until the 1960s. Learn how they blazed a trail to inspire future generations of women in finance.

Abigail Adams

1st documented woman investor in the U.S.

Abigail Adams didn’t have the right to own property, but that didn’t stop her from making investments and financial decisions for the household. While her husband, President John Adams, was busy with his political career, Abigail took care of the family finances. Some historians predict she saw more than a 400% return. Wow. She also strongly encouraged John to use his position of power for good by supporting women’s equality — and he respected her as an equal.

Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Clafin

1st female stockbrokers on Wall Street

Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Clafin were sisters who started out earning money as clairvoyants in traveling tent revivals. Following a vision, they headed to the Big Apple where they met Cornelius Vanderbilt, a businessman who was curious about their psychic abilities. He later helped them set up their brokerage firm, Woodhull, Claflin & Company (the first in women’s history). The sisters were supporters of the women’s suffrage movement — and Victoria was the first woman to run for U.S. president. You go girl.

Madam C.J. Walker

1st Black female self-made millionaire in the U.S.

Sarah Breedlove — later known as Madam C.J. Walker —  blossomed a problem into a business. The problem? She suffered from hair loss. Madam C.J. searched high and low for solutions and eventually took matters into her own hands — creating her own Black hair care product, Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower. She built a team and won a following of happy customers. The “Walker System” earned Madam C.J. a place in history as the first self-made Black female millionaire. Like many other Black financial pioneers, she aimed to create economic opportunities for her community, including hiring Black employees, making charitable donations and providing scholarships.

Muriel Siebert

1st woman to become a member of the New York Stock Exchange

Muriel Siebert wasn’t afraid to be the only girl in a room — and she set her sights on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at an early age. Muriel changed jobs multiple times to achieve a salary equal to that of her male peers. When it was time for her to apply to the NYSE, it took ten tries to find a sponsor. But she didn’t give up. Known as “The First Woman of Finance,” Muriel was the only woman out of 1,365 men on the stock exchange for ten years. And get this: There was no women’s restroom in the whole building. So, she changed that too. *Mic drop.*

“Women are conditioned to look at our flaws. For me, people would say ‘But you're a woman, you're from the south, you're African-American,’ — I am all those things, but those are not reasons why I can't do something, they are reasons I can.” — Lauren Simmons

Lauren Simmons 

Youngest female trader on the New York Stock Exchange

Our story goes from the first woman on the NYSE to the youngest female trader on Wall Street. And the second Black woman trader in history. Lauren Simmons arrived on the investing scene with a genetics degree from Kennesaw State University. She passed her investment exam to earn a spot at Rosenblatt Securities, making history at just 22 years old. But Lauren wasn’t satisfied with the salary she earned while trading. So, she pivoted to teach others to become financially savvy instead. You can hear Lauren talk about smart money habits on the UnBossed podcast and Going Public series.

Adena Friedman

1st female CEO to lead a global stock exchange

Adena Friedman is an American-Jewish businesswoman who currently holds the title of President and CEO of Nasdaq. She attributes her confidence in a male-dominated industry to attending an all-girls school, where she never hesitated to raise her hand and ask a question. Adena started at Nasdaq as a business analyst, eventually making her way to become the first woman to ever lead a global stock exchange company. Throughout her career, Adena has made it a priority to advocate for women in leadership and financial literacy for kids. That’s what we like to see.

The future of females in finance

Alright, buckle up for some stats. Did you know that women typically reinvest as much as 90% of their wealth back into their families and communities? Since the pandemic, 50% of women say they are more interested in investing — and a whopping 7 out of 10 women wish they had started investing earlier. By raising a generation of financially-smart kids, we can write a history that empowers more female leaders in finance — like the ones we just met. We know you’re up for it. So, let's get to work on a bright financial future — for everyone.

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