Friday is going to be a big day when it comes to women breaking glass ceilings, real and imagined. Because on that day Stacey Cunningham will become the first female president of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in its 226-year history. With her assuming charge as its 67th president, two of the world's biggest stock exchanges will be run by women - last January, Adena Friedman was appointed as the chief executive of Nasdaq.
The inspirational story gets better still - Cunningham started her career at NYSE as a summer intern over two decades ago. She steadily climbed up the totem pole in the ensuing years, moving up from being a floor clerk on the NYSE trading floor in 1996 to the NYSE Group's chief operating officer (COO) currently. NYSE Group's equity exchanges - the NYSE, NYSE American and NYSE Arca - trade more US equity volume than any other exchange group.
"More than a half century after Muriel Siebert became the first woman to own a seat on the NYSE, Stacey represents a new generation of leadership for the NYSE Group," Jeff Sprecher, Chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) and Chairman of NYSE Group and the exchange, said in a statement.
"Since the moment I stepped onto the trading floor, the @NYSE has always held a special place in my heart. I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead this organization," she tweeted yesterday after NYSE's parent ICE made the historic announcement. The 43-year-old will succeed Thomas Farley, who has served in that role since 2014 and is now moving on as the chief executive officer of a special purpose acquisition company.
According to NYSE, as Cunningham ascends to her new role, John Tuttle, currently the NYSE's Global Head of Listings, will become the new COO and will lead NYSE's Global Listings, Capital Markets, and Exchange Traded Products businesses.
Note that Cunningham's predecessor and successor are both men. "It's a male-dominated environment," she acknowledged in a recent interview, adding that very few women work in finance and technology and that "it hasn't changed quite as rapidly as some other industries have changed".
Significantly, as pointed out by CNN, of ICE's 21 executives, only four, including Cunningham, are women. The report added that her appointment comes at the time the Wall Street is facing increased pressure to be more inclusive of women. Just last month, New York City official agreed to relocate the "Fearless Girl" statue to a spot in front of the NYSE. The bronze statue of a little girl staring down Wall Street's iconic "Charging Bull" sculpture - complete with fists on her hips - has become a powerful symbol of the need for gender equality in the corporate world. And since the statue's appearance last March, State Street Global Advisors President Cyrus Taraporevala told Reuters that more than 150 companies have added a woman to their boards.
Calling her appointment "a full circle story for me", Cunningham has reportedly declared that she would pursue new types of financial listings and work to reverse the decline of international public offerings. The NYSE is the premier global venue for capital raising, leading worldwide in IPOs, including technology IPOs.
With agency inputs