Gender equality in the financial sector is improving year by year, thanks in part to the efforts of women who have broken into previously male-only roles. Here are the stories of three pioneers who achieved a series of firsts.

2:00 min

Muriel Siebert was not only the first woman to become a member of the New York Stock Exchange but the first to become superintendent of banking for the state of New York. Having made a name for herself as a successful trader, her two-year battle to buy a seat on the NYSE involved asking ten members to sponsor her application (the first nine refused) and securing an onerous $300,000 bank loan. She succeeded in 1967 and founded her own brokerage, Muriel Siebert & Company, in 1969. During her five-year term as superintendent of banking, from 1977 to 1982, none of the banks she oversaw failed.


Maurizia Angelo Comneno was the first woman to be made a director of UniCredit and was deeply involved in the bank’s evolution and its growth into a pan-European player. She graduated in law and joined the legal department of UniCredit forerunner Credito Italiano in 1978, going on to head the legal office and later corporate affairs and compliance before she retired in 2008. She was credited by then UniCredit CEO Alessandro Profumo with having played a crucial role at every stage of the company’s transformation into one of Europe’s biggest banks.


Christine Lagarde has achieved a series of landmarks in the male-dominated world of politics and financial regulation. In 2019, she became the first woman to head the European Central Bank, an ongoing role in which she has faced significant challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. She also has the distinction of having been the first female finance minister of France (from 2007 to 2011) and the first woman to lead the International Monetary Fund (from 2011 to 2019). She has championed the involvement of women in finance, including setting a target for the ECB to fill at least half of new and open positions with women.