Stacy Cunningham, who began his career as an Intern at the new York stock exchange 24 years ago, will become the first woman to head the 226-year-old financial market on Friday at a reception that raises hopes that the glass ceiling may finally on wall Street.
But has it? Cunningham takes positions in the financial services sector, is struggling to show it has gone beyond cliche sexist culture of wall Street.
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Little personifies wall Street better than the pre-digitized by the new York stock exchange at the time now 43-year-old Cunningham joined she was one of only three dozen women among the more than 1,000 people.
When she first arrived, Cunningham recalled that last year the women’s restroom on the seventh floor was in the old phone booth. Men, she said, was “palatial” room next to the sofas and regular assistant.
But while Cunningham and her work is continuing to modernize trade operations on the NYSE and to cause more companies list publicly, the wall Street wants to show that she is on the path to gender equality.
In a symbolic gesture, the city authorities headed by mayor of new York, bill de Blasio, had a fearless girl, a statue commissioned to look into the 7,000 pound charging Bull wall street, in a place outside of the exchange.
Fearless statue of a girl looking down a charging bull. Photograph: mark Lennihan/AP
In an interview, Cunningham acknowledged the women who came before her, among them Muriel Siebert, a legend on wall Street as the first woman to join the exchange as a trader in 1967.
“I am a woman trader on the floor, and I never thought about it – I never thought that could happen, and whether the opportunity was available to me,” said Cunningham street in March.
“And that’s because Muriel has paved the way. I think it is very important to recognize that any time a woman pushes the limits and redefines boundaries, she reinvents them for everything else that follows her”.
But some ways of thinking, celebrating Cunningham is in itself a testimony of how few women reach senior positions on wall Street.
Two weeks ago, the CEO of Campbell soup, Denise Morrison, has sharply left downwards, causing hand-wringing that her departure left only 23 women as CEOs of the Fortune 500, with 32 in 2016.
Morrison was followed by several other high-profile women from the door, including Meg Whitman at Hewlett-Packard, Irene Rosenfeld of Mondēlez, Sheri McCoy of Avon and Margo Georgiadis on Mattel.
On the other hand, there is Mary Barra as “GM” Led Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Jeannie Rometti of IBM and Indra Nooyi at Pepsi.
But, according to Katherine Colbert, founder and outgoing Director of the Athena Center for leadership studies at Barnard College, the fact that we still count the arrivals and departures of women leaders is evidence of how much remains to be done.
“If you look at the pace of change it will take another 100 years to reach parity.”
According to Colbert drafted two years ago, women occupied only 16% of the seats in the Board of Directors and 14% of Executive officer positions in Fortune 500. A quarter of these firms had no women in Executive management positions.
Indicators improved for the financial industry, which boasts 29% of women in senior leadership positions, but few at the highest level.
“But we know that women at high levels of management improves not only the substance but also makes the company much more creative, innovative and responsive to their customers, but I don’t see a significant change in the number of women at the highest leadership levels in the company to provide financial services,” said Colbert.
“You can’t have gender equality until you have critical mass, and we don’t have critical mass until you get up to 30%,” said Nathalie Molina niño, CEO of Blanca investments and author leapfrog: a New revolution for women entrepreneurs. “It is only then that you really start to see a change in culture. Having a woman on Board is really no difference at all.”
According to Colbert, improving gender equality is a question of will.
“It’s not hard to do. We know that when a senior member of the company Fortune wants to change, it happens and it happens quickly. I have long believed companies not only need to see the benefit, but we need the will to change it.”
Which corresponds to the thinking of Elissa Ellis Sangster, Executive Director of the Forte Foundation, a group that helps women in business. Sangster told the Guardian that she was too “unpleasant” that we still celebrate when women are appointed to senior positions.
“You’d think now the pipeline will be 50-50 and we’ll see enough women in one-level-down positions, which are willing and capable of piloting some of these companies.”