While we’re still far from reaching a level-playing field when it comes to gender, the concept of being the first woman in a male-only space is something many of us imagine happened centuries ago.
It can be easy to overlook the monumental breakthroughs and steps towards better gender equality that have been achieved in very recent years.
See also: – City Hive launches Fearless Woman campaign
Fifty years ago, while the rules of the Stock Exchange did not explicitly prohibit women from being members each time a woman did apply, she was voted down. Although women were technically given the green light to be stockbrokers and manage money, without London Stock Exchange membership, a glass ceiling hung over their heads as they couldn’t become partners of their companies or truly be party to the inner workings of the City.
All of this changed on 26 March 1973, when after two decades of campaigning, a small group of women made what is arguably the biggest gender breakthrough in our industry. Muriel Wood, Susan Shaw, Hilary Root, Anthea Gaukroger, Audrey Geddes and Elisabeth Rivers-Bulkeley became the first women members of the London Stock Exchange in its almost 200-year history. At the time, bookies had offered 10-1 odds on the admitting of women not taking place in the foreseeable future.
According to reports, this was an era when government brokers still used to don top hats for their visits to the Bank of England, while the “smoking rattle”, a bell rung by a butler at 3.15pm allowing members to smoke, was still in full effect. The admission of these six women into what was one of the most notoriously unapologetic boys’ club became the news story of the month. At the time the media labelled the London Stock Exchange as the “last bastion of misogyny”, and predicted that admitting these women was a significant step forward to modernisation and gender parity.
As we stand five decades on from that fateful day, it’s easy to be filled both with pride and a sense of fatigue. While significant breakthroughs have been made over the past 50 years, the stark gender representation and pay gaps that still plague the investment industry demonstrate that there is still a lot to learn and much work to be done.
With the past, present and future women pioneers of our industry in mind, City Hive has launched our 12 month long ‘Fearless Woman’ campaign, marking the 50th year of women investing. While celebrating those who came before us, opening the doors many of us continue to walk through to this day, we’ll also be looking at the present and future of women in our industry, and how we can continue to strive for equal footing.
ESG Clarity, What Investment and DiversityQ are delighted to support the City Hive campaign Fearless Woman to celebrate 50 years of women investing in the UK.