How women marched into the stock market turmoil
If men on the London Stock Exchange were still objecting to the inclusion of women in the prestigious institution when it merged with eleven regional competitors in November 1972, the late Queen Elizabeth II soon relegated them to their place. Her Majesty went off the runway when she delivered the after-dinner address at the celebration of the merger and the opening of their new headquarters.
These regional bodies were smaller but ahead of the capital in a crucial way – in that several were already accepting women as members.
Whether this new, larger institution would also do so was not yet confirmed. Noting this, the Queen said, digressing: “I cannot help but wonder whether historians will find it more remarkable that this remarkable unity was achieved than that you opened your doors to female members on the same day .”
This cleverly timed intervention gave financiers a much-needed boost of recognition and four months later – 50 years ago today – six women entered Europe’s busiest trading pit for the first time.
On March 26, 1973, the city was a different place, populated mostly by men in pinstriped suits with rolled-up umbrellas and bowler hats. Electronic calculators did not exist and trading was done by hearty shouting on the open shouting floor.
Pioneer: Anthea Gaukroger was one of the first six women to list on the London Stock Exchange, circled on the left
Women were also there – but mostly as secretaries or typists.
But even those who were financiers through and through had been kept out of the upper echelons of the Square Mile by the male-only membership system up to that point.
Although they could become stockbrokers and manage client funds, without membership they could not reach the top of the corporate ladder and become a partner in a brokerage firm.
The rules of the stock exchange, the beating heart of the city, did not specifically exclude women. But in the past, every time you applied for membership, existing members turned it down.
Beginning March 26, 1973, those who passed the rigorous entrance tests could enter with their heads held high.
Culturally, however, many men were not yet ready for equality on the trading floor. What if female members wore short skirts, males were distracted, or used female cunning to execute better trades?
A tenacious rising floor member was Muriel Bailey, aka Muriel Wood, who pointed out that if the UK regional bourses were to merge, there would be a two-tier system for women unless the LSE also absorbed them.
In 1973, a total of 14 women were invited to the 170-year-old gentleman’s club, including Anthea Gaukroger, 81, and Hilary Pearson, 77, who remain firm friends to this day. Gaukroger, who lives in Clapham, south-west London, passed the membership exams in 1972 ‘although at that time I had no prospect of becoming a member.
“My work colleagues thought it would be a useful experience and would improve my professional standing,” she says, adding that she “defaulted” to admitting women in 1973 because she was already qualified.
But her experience was a far cry from the misogynistic picture that many painted at the time. She says: “There was a very conservative view at the time that finance and investing was a male domain. The idea of women even wanting to join was alien to many, but once it happened, like so many things, the unimaginable became normal. There was no animosity – just mild astonishment that every woman wanted to join.’
Always interested in finance, she worked at Sheppards and Chase when she was accepted as an LSE member.
Hectic: In 1973 the city was a very different place, populated mainly by men in pinstripe suits with rolled-up umbrellas and bowler hats
Pearson, who also worked at Sheppard’s, had always been a go-getter and landed her first job in finance by responding to a front-page ad in The Times looking for male applicants — though they hired them anyway.
Being a member, she points out, made “not the slightest difference” to what they did on a daily basis.
Gaukroger retired in late 2000 after spending decades as an analyst — with a career that has spanned a series of stock market ups and downs as well as the heyday of deregulation in the 1980s known as the “Big Bang.” At that time, individual membership in the LSE was abolished entirely.
The old system had allowed women to enter the elite, male-dominated elite of the financial world, although many are now saying this too late.
Decades later, membership may not be required to get to the top, but women are still grossly underrepresented and earn less than their male counterparts.
They also face more hurdles than men at various points in their careers – although changes to maternity policy announced in the recent budget could make it easier for working women to continue working once they have children.
Progress has been made – but much remains to be done.
We will continue the work of these urban pioneers
Julia Hoggett, CEO of the London Stock Exchange
Incredible feeling: Julia Hoggett
It’s an incredible feeling to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women’s listing.
The city has seen paradigm shifts since 1973 and the financial services industry is more diverse than ever.
But it still annoys me to this day that the LSE was not actually required to accept the positive case for women’s membership, but was given no choice when it merged with 11 others who had already invited them into the fold.
As Chief Executive of the London Stock Exchange, I recognize the need to continue the work started by the pioneers we honor today to increase the participation and empowerment of women in financial services – both as industry professionals and , just as important as people receiving financial services.
As I said, we truly stand on the shoulders of giants and we have a duty to pass the baton to the next generation.
While stories of misogyny and goodies have dwindled, they haven’t entirely gone away. We also still lack female role models in the industry. The latest data from the [Treasury-backed] Women in Finance Charter showed that the average proportion of women in senior management was only 35 percent. Although this has improved in recent years, more needs to be done; we cannot be complacent.
I have to admit, I hate making the “business case” for diversity and inclusion. I think we’ve come to a point where there shouldn’t be any discussion about why it’s important to adequately represent more than 50 percent of the population in the city. Instead, we should focus our attention on what we actually need to change to make a difference for women.
However, if I have to provide a business case, I would make a simple point: Diversity and inclusion is about giving everyone in the workplace an equal opportunity to thrive.
Setting up an industry so that only a certain part of that industry can thrive is, simply put, garbage resource management.
We did a study with the Center for Economics and Business Research that found gross value added nearly tripled [the value that producers have added to goods and services] of the UK economy by women in finance over the last 26 years.
This has contributed to a £1.12 trillion ‘gender diversity dividend’ for the UK economy since 1997 – through the incredible work of innovative, dynamic and committed women across the UK financial sector.
Interestingly, the growth is explained by an increase in women’s ability to participate and consequently their wages and productivity – leading to higher added value per worker.
This should make any politician working to solve Britain’s productivity conundrum sit up and take notice.
But it also shows how much value we gave up by not including women earlier.
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