In the late 80s I was the first female hire in the flagship Boston office of one of the largest Brokerage firms in the world at the time (of which will not be named :-). Yes you read it correctly the first female hire as a broker. Sure there were many female hires before me as what was called a registered assistants but not to be an actual stock broker as I was hired into (now called Financial Advisor or money manager).
I came from being an Art Dealer and managing art galleries when I was in my 20s. As the art world was struggling, I decided to take a chance on interviewing in a completely different field. I interviewed with the manager as well as his assistant up on the 40th floor in Boston’s financial district. After my interview his assistant told me that he was “willing” to give me a chance and that I was the first woman hired. She then proceeded to make it really clear that this was unprecedented and that it’s extremely important that I am highly successful so that he is convinced to hire more women. In other words, I was to be the example and pave the way in proving that woman should be doing this job.
Since I love a good challenge and especially a challenge with a cause I took it on feeling the weight of the responsibility. I attended one of the top women’s prep schools in our Country (Emma Willard) where we were marinated in the responsibility of paving the way for women in leadership. So I dove right in.
As soon as I started I was told that in order to keep my job I must pass all of the official broker tests. I was told that not only did I need to pass them but in order to prove I should be here I must get fairly high scores ~ because people were not sure women could do well in these tests. Yes the men that were hired got to take the test a few times if they didn’t pass right away but I needed to pass the first time and pass with a high score in order to keep my job. I passed all of the tests and the main largest test I actually passed with the 2nd highest score in the history of this flagship office. I was purposely going to for this in order to prove a point.
Within the first few days of me getting off the elevator on the 40th floor I learned that the branch’s largest producer was a woman! This took me a little bit to try and figure out why they didn’t want to hire more women if their largest producer was a woman? She literally made over a million dollars a year as the most important producer in the branch of many floors. I later found out that she was originally an assist and worked her way up from there. However, I built a good relationship with her and actually sat in her office and listened to her doing business while I was studying for my tests. It was a crucial part of my experience as she became an example for me as she sat and did business in her large suit corner office filled with glass overlooking Boston Harbor. I would listen to her yelling at the options floor guys in her thick Boston accent while smiling about getting the prices she wanted for her clients. I didn’t even need help from her all I needed to know is that she existed and was uber successful so that was possible for me.
The rules for me were different than the rules for all of the guys. If I got a big account I had to share it. If the guys got a big account they could keep it. I did not get as many leads as everyone else and I was left out of popular deals coming from the exchange floor. So I navigated my way within the confines of the world of rules. I created friendships and alliances with other producers in the office like Omar who was the second biggest producer. He gave me his extra leads because he didn’t need them and we made a deal that If I got large business from them I would share part of the business with him. I created success a number of ways right away in my first few years in the business.
Every day that I entered that office I encountered some sort of sexual comment or form of sexual harassment. However, being brought up in and around New York City I had a quick come back for every stupid comment thrown my way and after a while the guys gave up and or gained respect for my ability to not take any crap from them.
Eventually I built a strong business and was regarded as one of the most skilled traders in the office for initial public offerings. I was very skilled at choosing public offerings that would be successful and this earned me both respect within this large flagship office and a lot of clients.
Lessons from these early days on Walls Street
I see these early days as part of my initial Warrior Woman training
I learned to stand up for myself in challenging situations and not take any Sh*t from anyone
I learned that I am capable of extraordinary things in extraordinary situations
I learned that sometimes we are trailblazer and that comes with tramendious responsibility so that others can follow after you. So blaze that trail with integrity and strength and skill so that others will be able to follow with more light. I learned that every one of us who is blazing the way ~ it’s a real responsibly and a worthy quest.
I learned that even just knowing of a women that had accomplished the extraordinary made all the difference in the world to me in knowing what was truly possible for someone like me. And that helped me understand my responsibility as I moved forward in my life in paving the way and being an example wherever I can.
We are ALL capable of so much more than we think!