In 2006, Mary Schapiro – former SEC Commissioner, former Chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and former President of NASD Regulation, Inc. – was named Chairman and CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA was created from the merger of NASD and the member regulation, enforcement and arbitration functions of the New York Stock Exchange, and became the largest non-governmental regulator for securities firms doing business in the United States. Schapiro recruited Susan Merrill, formerly with the New York Stock Exchange, to lead FINRA’s enforcement division.
“Susan Merrill became the head of [FINRA] enforcement. Her entire senior management team – there was one man and the rest were women.”
Three years later, President Barack Obama appointed Schapiro as the first woman to serve as permanent Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Significantly, her successors as SEC Chairmen were both women: former SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter, and former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White.
“I think the reason I’m most glad I got to be [SEC] Chairman is that it showed all the people on the staff that you can make it up the ranks. This can happen to you.”
“We’ve reached a stage where we’re now on our third female [SEC] Chair, as opposed to acting Chairs. The second and the third are the ones that demonstrate how far you’ve really come. Once you have gotten to the stage where it’s sufficiently institutionalized that it’s of no consequence, that’s a terrific accomplishment.”
The era of being the “first” woman in a financial regulatory role has realistically ended. At the SEC today, two Commissioners, including the Chairman; the General Counsel; the Secretary; and six of the eleven Regional Administrators are women. At FINRA, there are four women members in executive management positions and four on the Board of Governors.37. The door to professional contribution and service is now truly open wide.
The women who served at the SEC and/or the NASD-FINRA, at all levels of service and in whatever era, demonstrated that they were as valuable and qualified as their male counterparts in the regulation of the capital markets. Their contributions formed the foundation on which today’s women serve in securities regulation. Their legacy is that women now will be viewed and valued for their expertise and experiences, rather than primarily through the prism of their gender, in serving in vital roles to ensure fair and open markets for all.
“My daughters are now 27 and about to turn 30, and they’re completely oblivious to any distinction between men and women in the professional world. That’s just the way it ought to be, but it’s very different from the experience I had.”
(37) Pursuant to a 2013 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission directive, the SEC now compiles an annual EEO Program Status Report. For fiscal year 2013, 41.78% of SEC attorneys and 43.78% of SEC accountants were female.
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