As Jimmy Carter was making his final campaign push to win the presidency from Gerald Ford, 30-year-old Alice Jarcho was making history of her own. She became the second female member of the New York Stock Exchange on Oct. 28, 1976. Working as a floor broker, she traded for the investment firm Oppenheimer and Company. This is the story of how she got there.

Key Takeaways

  • Women who filled posts vacated by men during World War II were the first to work on the NYSE trading floor. These women worked as clerks and pages.
  • They were followed by Muriel Siebert, the first woman to own a seat at the exchange, in 1967.
  • Alice Jarcho became the second woman to hold a seat at the exchange, in 1976.
Alice Jarcho

Alison Czinkota / Investopedia

Alice Jarcho’s Rise and Predecessors

In 1943, Helen Hanzelin became the first woman to work on the New York Stock Exchange trading floor. She was a telephone clerk for Merrill, Lynch, Pearce, Fenner & Beane. Later that year, another three dozen women working as quote clerks and pages joined her on the floor. Dozens of other women would hold these positions throughout World War II.

Jarcho was born shortly after the war ended, probably in 1946. A native New Yorker, she attended Queens College. Her first job after leaving college was as a receptionist for the brokerage Hirsch & Co. in 1965, where she worked for three months. That year, the American Stock Exchange became the first U.S. exchange to admit women, when Julia Montgomery Walsh and Phyllis Peterson joined what is today the NYSE American.

Jarcho would quickly rise to higher-level positions. In her next job, she worked as a secretary for a firm outside Wall Street. In 1967, she returned to Hirsch as office secretary, where she worked for two years.

Muriel Siebert Breaks Ground

While Jarcho was working her way up, Muriel “Mickie” Siebert became the first female member of the New York Stock Exchange, in 1967. The exchange was so male-dominated that it had no women’s bathroom. Siebert was a sole proprietor and largely worked off the floor. She’s often recognized as an outstanding female investor. Beyond her NYSE membership, her accomplishments included founding her own brokerage firm, pioneering individual discounting in 1975, on the first day that NYSE members were allowed to negotiate commissions for trades, and serving as the first female superintendent of banks for New York State.

After leaving Hirsch & Co. for a second time, Jarcho became an order clerk at Oppenheimer & Co., where she worked for Ted Fellerman, who established the company’s arbitrage department. During that time, Jane Larkin was an NYSE member for a few months in 1970 as a partner of Hirsch & Co.

Jarcho moved on to yet another firm, where she became an institutional trader and then head of the trading desk for the investment management firm Bernstein-Macaulay. On Oct. 1, 1972, she became a securities trader for Loews Corp. (today an insurance, energy, hospitality, and packaging company), heading her own department. She worked for the company’s chair, Laurence Tisch; the Tisch family runs the firm to this day.

Jarcho’s Career-Defining Opportunity at Oppenheimer

Just 11 years after beginning her professional career as a receptionist, Jarcho was hired as a vice president by Oppenheimer & Co. on Oct. 1, 1976. After a couple of weeks of filing the paperwork required to join the NYSE, she spent nine days as a broker trainee on the floor of the stock exchange. On Oct. 27, she passed her floor broker test. The company paid $60,000 to buy her seat, while Siebert had to come up with the money herself for her $445,000 seat, which she did in part through a loan. The first order Jarcho executed was for 10,000 shares of Franklin Mint, a producer of commemorative, collectible coins and medals that is now privately held.

That same year, on May 24, Marsha O’Bannon became the NYSE’s first female officer after working at the exchange since 1973. The exchange named her assistant vice president of planning services, a promotion from director of rule interpretation.

Jarcho would work as a floor broker until 1980 and become mildly famous as the first woman to be a full-time floor broker at the Big Board. We don’t know much about Jarcho beyond that; she keeps a low profile, at least online. She told The New York Times that she didn’t see herself as a trailblazer for women on the exchange floor.

Alice Jarcho was well-known for being the first woman to be a full-time broker at the Big Board.

A Culture of Harassment on Wall Street

Jarcho later revealed that she faced constant sexual harassment from her male colleagues at the exchange, a situation Siebert reported as well. There is no information on whether this was the reason Jarcho left the exchange or just something she dealt with during her time there.

It wasn’t until 1996 that women began coming forward in full force to protest their harassment by men in their Wall Street careers. Twenty-six female Smith Barney employees across the country filed a class-action lawsuit against the firm for their mistreatment, which included not only sexual harassment but also systematic exclusion of women from higher-level jobs. The suit grew to include nearly 2,000 women and resulted in a $150 million payout.

Wall Street, of course, has a long history of male dominance. The New York Stock Exchange traces its origins to 24 men who, in 1792, gathered beneath a buttonwood tree to agree to trade securities exclusively with each other. While their goal was not to exclude women but rather to exclude competitors and avoid regulation, no woman traded on the floor of the NYSE until the late 1960s.

From the Floor to the C-Suite

After Jarcho’s breakthrough in 1976 as the first female full-time floor broker, it would take another 42 years before a woman was named president of the NYSE. Stacey Cunningham, who rose from intern to chief operating officer over 24 years, took over the role in September 2018. If Jarcho still worked on the floor today, she would find it a much emptier place. Most trades are now executed electronically, and the NYSE is now owned by Atlanta-based Intercontinental Exchange.