These days we can see women working throughout the spectrum of the stock exchange from the trading floor to the securities commission, fraud prevention teams to arbitration and audit teams but it was not always this way. In the 80s I was studying law at university alongside a Michelle L Marquez, a woman that became my best friend and an inspiration for women everywhere, although they may not be aware of it. Michelle was determined to follow in her father’s footsteps and work for a legal group that oversaw the stock exchange, despite the fact that it was a male dominated environment. Michelle survived those years and as a result of ladies like her following their dreams, this has become a far more accessible industry for women everywhere.
During the early days I would regularly catch up with Michelle after work to discuss how our days had been and some of the things that she was forced to endure were very difficult for her indeed. There were direct insults leveled at her of a sexist nature, she had to listen to innuendos being made and very often her work would be looked down upon in spite of its quality, simply because she was a woman. The emotional strength that she had to show was remarkable and this is surely what got her through.
Michelle’s parents instilled a hard work ethic in her and this would be something that she would have to rely upon during her time on the stock exchange. Whilst nobody ever told her this directly she knew that everyone was looking at her as though she couldn’t do the job because she was a woman and because of this she would work harder, faster and smarter than everyone else in her team. Michelle knew that she had to earn her place, an unfortunate truth of those times, and so she had to put in the extra effort.
Michelle’s role during those years was to oversee trades that were happening on the floor, and watch out for any potential foul play or trades which didn’t look as though they were legitimate. Sadly because this had been an industry of men who had friends throughout the stock market, there was very often issues that were magically swept under the carpet. This proved to be very testing for Michelle as she was working hard on her job, only for issues to be ignored. Her resilience during this time was part of what changed the status quo and for her superiors, it made them stand up and take notice.
A lesser woman would have quit after just a few weeks in this kind of industry, many in fact did leave after just a few weeks and there was absolutely no shame in that. Michelle however was so dedicated to achieving what she had set out to that this was how she survived and this was how she was able to hold her position and thrive in this industry, inspiring women to follow in her footsteps as she went.