“It was a time when you really had to be better, if you were a woman.”
“I started as a bond lawyer in 1978, and I looked young for my age, which wasn’t a help as a lawyer, and the clients were positively startled when people would be assembling for a meeting and I would sit down at the table. They were expecting me to pour coffee.”
The 1970s witnessed a surge of women of both political parties attaining leadership positions in U.S. government and politics. U.S. Representative Shirley Chisholm (D-New York) was a candidate for the 1972 Democratic nomination for President; U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan (D-Texas) gave the keynote address at the 1976 Democratic convention. In 1978, U.S. Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kansas) became the first woman elected to a full Senate term without her husband having previously served in Congress.
Both Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter set priorities for appointing women to senior federal government positions. Carla Anderson Hills was named by President Ford as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, while Anne Armstrong was the first woman to serve as counselor to the President, a Cabinet-level position in the Nixon and Ford Administrations. President Carter appointed Patricia Roberts Harris as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and then Secretary of Health and Human Services; Shirley Hufstedler as Secretary of Education; and Juanita Kreps as Secretary of Commerce.19 In 1978, he named Nancy Teeters as the first woman to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.20
“Marilyn Brown is highly qualified for this position, having many years’ experience within the investment industry. She has clearly demonstrated her knowledge of the market, legal and regulatory aspects of this industry. Her candidacy is also significant because it offers further encouragement to women who are striving for successful careers within the investment industry, and who have seen it managed and controlled by their male counterparts for so long.”
It was time for women to attain leadership ranks in securities regulation, and – for both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the NASD – the breakthrough year was 1977. But it could have been 1976 for the SEC. Marilyn Brown, a chartered financial analyst, actively promoted her interest in being appointed the first woman SEC Commissioner with the Ford administration. Her goal never came to fruition, as the 1976 Presidential election interceded and Ford lost to Carter.
“After talking about the work of the SEC, [President Carter] said to me something that I think now would be illegal in an interview, and maybe was then, but he meant it kindly. He said, ‘Oh, I see you have four children. Do you think you’re going to have any more?’ I said, ‘I don’t think so. I’m 40 years old and it seems to me that four children are enough at my age.’ He said, “Well, Rosalynn had Amy when she was about your age and that was the best thing we ever did.’ I thought, ‘I’m talking to the President of the United States about my children; this is incredible.’
He said to me, ‘Do you have any reservations about taking this job?’ I said, ‘If I’m going to do this job, I have to move my family before September when school starts. So I’m really going to have to know one way or the other whether I have this job pretty soon.’ When I think back upon it, I realize this was a nervy thing to have said in this interview, but that’s what was on my mind. President Carter then said, ‘Well, I guess you have the job.’ I almost fainted.”
It was Roberta Karmel, a former staff member of the SEC’s New York Regional Office and a partner with Roger & Wells in New York City, who was named the first woman to the SEC Commission in 1977. She is candid in her oral histories about her interest in serving, her overtures to political contacts and law colleagues (and her near appointment to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Commission), and her confirmation hearing. One worry was securing the vote of U.S. Senator William Proxmire, who later “said something like, ‘It’s about time we had a woman in this job.’” 21
“Mrs. Karmel is working proof of women’s ability to be movers and shakers in an area of decision-making and control that has historically been closed to them.”
“It was at the time period when Roberta Karmel was a Commissioner, and Roberta, in a very quiet way, knew all the female professionals on the staff. She knew if you were married or not. She knew whether you had children or not. She didn’t make a big deal about it, but it made you feel like somebody was looking out for you and you belonged.”
Parallel developments at the NASD signaled changes in the appointment of women to senior positions. Frances Dyleski, with Robert C. Carr & Co., Inc. in Manchester, New Hampshire, was the first woman to serve on a NASD District Committee, as a member of District No. 13, encompassing New England and New York, with the exception of New York City. District Committees regulated activity by brokers in each district and were important means through which NASD rules and procedures were communicated to brokerage firms throughout the country. Two years later, she became the first woman to serve on the NASD Board of Governors.22
“Carolyn [B. Lewis], who combines a successful career with marriage, is convinced that many women are unaware of the latent opportunities within the SEC and believes that our recruitment program should be accelerated to take advantage of the upward mobility in the training of women in the past few years. ‘We need not only good lawyers, but also economists, statisticians, accountants and financial analysts, and the stability that the modern woman has proven she can bring to a particular job.’”
It was not just leaders such as Karmel and Dyleski who made significant breakthroughs in securities regulation during the 1970s. The September 1970 SEC Employee Bulletin focused on opportunities for women at the SEC and the role of women in government, featuring Anne Jones for opportunity, Michele Metrinko for versatility, and Carolyn B. Lewis for determination.23 Later, Jones was appointed the first woman to head a SEC division, when she was named Director of the Division of Investment Management in 1975.
“I received a telephone call from Mr. Moss requesting that I check up on the status of a Regulation A filing for some friends of his…Mr. Moss wanted to know if here was someone in the Commission he could contact so that he wouldn’t have to bother me. I told him he should call Ruth Appleton, who is in charge of Reg. A. I also told him that I would contact her and tell her to expect a call but that she should not give any special preference to this case over others and that it should be handled in the usual manner by either her or the Washington Regional Office.”
In November 1973, Edythe Long received the SEC’s Distinguished Service Award for her service in the Office of Records, Public Reference Section and was recognized as the first black woman to be so honored. 24 In a 1974 reorganization of the Division of Enforcement, Rose Jaffin was named Assistant Chief Counsel.25 That same year, Kathryn McGrath, a future Director of the Division of Investment Management, was Special Counsel to SEC Chairman Ray Garrett, while Barbara Leventhal was Legal Assistant to SEC Commissioner Irving Pollack. In the Division of Corporation Finance, Mary Beach was Chief of the Office of Disclosure Policy and Proceedings, Jean Gleason served as Special Counsel to Director Alan Levenson, and Ernestine Zipoy and Carolyn Lewis served as Branch Chiefs.26
“I was at a going-away lunch for one of the attorneys who was leaving to go to another office within NASD, and a woman attorney came to me at the lunch and said, ‘Oh, thank God you’re here. Now there’s three of us.’ I remember being in a state of shock when she said that. And then I did the math. There were three or four women in the enforcement department, in the home office in Washington. When I had been in member regulation, the head of the department was a woman; there were women on my team; there were women in other offices; there were women heading up at least two or three of the district offices.”
“I didn’t feel when I was [at the SEC] that there was necessarily discrimination against women so much as there were so few of us. I did feel in the Enforcement Division that there was a bit of a tilt towards the guys. I really did feel that. I didn’t like the feeling, but I did feel it.”
But for women, there were still challenges and barriers to advancement related to gender, particularly in different regulatory departments. At the SEC, Elisse Walter noted, “We used to talk about the boys’ divisions and the girls’ divisions, because Enforcement and what is now Trading and Markets were slower to come around to having senior women.”27 SEC Commissioner Roberta Karmel experienced challenges with the Division of Enforcement: “[The Enforcement staff] found it very difficult, since I was a woman and since I had been lower down in the bureaucracy when I was on the staff, to look at me as someone that they had to be accountable to – that they had to persuade me – that I had now become one of the bosses, if you will.” 28
Women had now become integral to securities regulation at both the SEC and NASD, but for the most part in junior and support staff roles. It was now time for women to be taken seriously, treated fairly, and not defined first by their gender. An extraordinary woman was to achieve this.
(20) Matt Schudel, “Nancy H. Teeters: First woman named to Federal Reserve Board,” The Washington Post, November 23, 2014. The obituary stated: “William Proxmire (D-Wis.), then-chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said it was a ‘disgrace’ that no woman had previously been nominated for the board.”
(Courtesy of FINRA)
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