Breaking Barriers: A History of Women in Finance

Breaking Barriers: A History of Women in Finance

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver” ― Ayn Rand

3 min read

Women in Finance

Breaking Barriers: A History of Women in Finance

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver” ― Ayn Rand

3 min read

The world of finance has long been dominated by men, but the tide has been changing. Throughout history, remarkable women have broken down barriers, shattered glass ceilings, and made significant contributions to the field of finance. Today, we are talking about the inspiring history of women in finance, highlighting their struggles and triumphs in this dynamic industry.

Pioneers of Early Finance

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, women like Hetty Green and Victoria Woodhull were trailblazers in finance. Hetty Green, known as the “Witch of Wall Street,” became one of the wealthiest women of her time, proving that gender was no obstacle to financial success. Victoria Woodhull was not only a pioneering stockbroker but also the first woman to run for president in the United States.

Alongside her sister, Tennessee Claflin, she opened the first female-owned brokerage firm on Wall Street. Their audacious presence in the male-dominated financial district was groundbreaking. Whilst they faced immense adversity, their determination laid the foundation for future women in finance to shatter the glass ceiling.

The Rise of Women on Wall Street

As the financial industry evolved, women made their mark on Wall Street. In the 1960s, Muriel “Mickie” Siebert became the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), challenging the male-dominated status quo. Her historic achievement paved the way for future generations of female finance professionals. 

After earning her place on the NYSE, Siebert continued to break ground. She founded her brokerage firm, Muriel F. Siebert & Co., in 1969. The company was one of the first female-owned brokerages, offering financial services to both institutional and retail clients. This bold move not only demonstrated Siebert’s determination to succeed but also her commitment to creating opportunities for other women in finance.

She was also known for her active involvement in politics, serving as the first woman to hold the position of New York State Superintendent of Banks from 1977 to 1982. Her role in financial regulation ensured that New York’s banking institutions operated effectively and responsibly.

The Feminine Influence on Investment

Women have also played a crucial role in shaping investment strategies. In the 1960s, Ann Hopkins helped pioneer the field of modern portfolio management. Her work on diversification and risk laid the groundwork for modern investment theory. 

Similarly, Elaine Garzarelli, renowned for predicting the 1987 stock market crash, demonstrated that financial acumen knows no gender. Her innovative approach to analysing market trends became instrumental for investors seeking to navigate the complexities of the stock market. Garzarelli’s successful career underscored the need for a diverse and inclusive finance industry that harnesses the skills and talents of women to drive innovation.

The 1960s to 2023

In the 1960s, women’s participation and representation in the finance industry was extremely limited. The 1960s marked the beginning of a gradual shift towards greater gender diversity in the industry, thanks in part to pioneering women like we have mentioned, such as Muriel Siebert, who fought to break through gender barriers.

Fast forward to 2023, for example, and there has been a significant increase in the representation of women in the finance sector, though disparities still exist.

Today, women like Abigail Johnson (CEO of Fidelity Investments and granddaughter of late Edward C. Johnson II, the founder of Fidelity Investments) and Janet Yellen (former Chair of the Federal Reserve) continue to lead and influence the finance world. Abigail Johnson oversees one of the largest and most influential financial services companies in the world. Her leadership exemplifies the substantial role women play in today’s financial landscape.

Janet Yellen, as the former Chair of the US Federal Reserve, the first woman to hold this esteemed position. Her role involved shaping and implementing monetary policy for the United States, underscoring the essential contribution of women to economic stability. These contemporary leaders demonstrate the positive impact of gender diversity in finance and contribute to the ongoing recognition of women within the industry.

Women Shaping the World of Finance

The history of women in finance is a story of determination, resilience, and success against the odds. From the early pioneers to contemporary leaders, women have made invaluable contributions to the industry. Recognising and promoting diversity in finance is not just a matter of equality but also a key to success. The future promises even greater opportunities for women in finance as they continue to break down barriers and redefine the industry.

Patterson Mills are proud to empower women to thrive in this dynamic field. If you are looking to taking your own steps to financial independence and enhance your own financial wellbeing to break down  the barriers you face, make sure you get in touch with us today and book your initial, no-cost and no-obligation meeting, you and your family will be pleased that you did. Send us an e-mail to or call us direct at +41 21 801 36 84 and we shall be pleased to assist you.

Please note that all information within this article has been prepared for informational purposes only. This article does not constitute financial, legal or tax advice. Always ensure you speak to a regulated Financial Adviser before making any financial decisions.