Securities and Exchange Commission Historical Society

The Open Door: Roles of Women in Securities Regulation

Teresa Koncick, Curator
Opened May 1, 2015


"I remember going to one interview at the only firm that gave me a callback. It was a very posh Wall Street law firm, and the man who took me around said to me about a half hour into the callback process, 'We’ve already hired a woman, so I don’t think you have much chance at a job offer.' My husband said that, when he met me after the interview, I was sitting on a step on the street corner crying.

I inquired about whether I could work for the [National Labor Relations Board] in New York and the man who ran the New York office said, 'A woman? We’re not hiring a woman in this office. She might have to interview teamsters.' So I thought, if the Wall Street firms won’t hire me and the NLRB won’t hire me, I will apply to the SEC, because they had an honors program and I was told this was one of the best of the government agencies, probably the best one in New York.

[At the SEC], I worked on a quickie criminal investigation with the man who was then the Associate Director, Jack Devaney, a career employee who was a very good lawyer…We obtained an indictment in three weeks, which at that time was a record of some sort, and he said to me, ‘You were hired over my objections, but you’re working out all right.’ The old-timers really didn’t want women in the office."

- November 18, 2005 Interview with Roberta Karmel

Women have been important to the regulation of the capital markets since the early 20th century. Investor protection and oversight of the securities markets, from the 1929 stock market crash to the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, have never been solely the purview or responsibility of men. Contrary to perception, women – as telephone operators, secretaries, file clerks, investigators, accountants, lawyers, technology specialists, board members and agency leaders – have and continue to assume crucial roles in ensuring fair and open markets for all.

This Gallery looks at the roles and progressive participation of women in two key and contemporaneous regulatory agencies: the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, established with the enactment of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; and the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD – now FINRA), founded as a self-regulatory organization with the passage of the 1939 Maloney Act.

Both the SEC and the NASD afforded opportunities for work and advancement, opening a door for professional inclusion in an industry often deemed to be closed to women. The Gallery highlights how women working in securities regulation have progressed over the decades, from roles and jobs defined by their gender, to opportunities recognizing their professional expertise and experiences. Working with their male colleagues, the contributions of women, with increasing authority and prominence, have had and continue to have a profound effect in meeting the challenges of regulation.


Permission for Use

The virtual museum and archive is copyrighted by the SEC Historical Society. The Society reserves the right to restrict access to or use of the museum by any user at any time.

Users are prohibited from sharing or downloading any material for publication or commercial purposes without written permission from the Executive Director. Requests for permission must be submitted by email and specify the material requested and for what purpose.

Material used with the Society's permission should be credited to: