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November 1, 2012

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Women Who Matter on Wall Street

By John D'Antona Jr.

Statistics are hard to come by on just how successful women have been at making it into one of the most complex occupations on Wall Street: the trading of stocks.

Investment banks, trading firms and exchanges have been dominated by men. But for the second year in a row, Traders Magazine is showing that this need not be so. Indeed, women are having increasing impact, as the "2012 Wall Street Women: A Celebration of Excellence" program shows.

There is, for instance, Sheri Kaiserman, head of equities at Wedbush Securities. She leads more than 130 professionals in equity research, sales and trading. She has increased revenue twentyfold in areas she's responsible for. She has made Wedbush famous for its Best Ideas List, which focuses on a list of 10 to 20 names that are worth attention. And she's not afraid to call a shot, like Apple hitting $800 a share because iPads are just starting to arrive in China.

Smart shots can also be safe shots, which is what the history of women on Wall Street has, so far, largely been about. About half a decade ago, women entered the world of finance in research, sales and wealth management, Dr. Melissa S. Fisher notes. The New York University scholar is the author of a study released this year, also titled "Wall Street Women."

Experts, Fisher says, are now making a "business case" for women's evenhandedness and leadership in global finance. In her words, women have "unique, biological abilities to be wary of risk" that enable them to see their way and their firms' way through economic crises. For women, there is no upward limit to what they can accomplish in the post-crisis era of Wall Street.

But being "wary of risk" doesn't mean hunkering down. Entrepreneur of the Year award winner Holly Stark says she, at times, has had to be "oblivious to risk" to work her way up from a spot as a marketing assistant at Oppenheimer Capital to head trader at Dillon Read Capital. She now is building up Efficient Frontiers, a capital markets consultancy that calls on financial analysts, academics and former CEOs on a project basis to help companies design trading platforms and run trading desks, among other tasks.

This year's award winners were selected from a field of more than 70 nominees, and judging was done by an independent advisory board comprised of seven female leaders from the securities industry.

In addition to 15 individual Wall Street Women awards, Traders Magazine also recognizes Goldman Sachs with its Diversity Achievement award, which honors the firm for its pursuit of moving women into its executive ranks.

M. Michele Burns chairs the audit committee of the firm's board of directors, for instance. Debora L. Spar, president of Barnard College, is also on the board. Edith W. Cooper has been global head of Human Capital Management since 2008.

But it is the firm's work throughout its ranks that earns it this year's recognition. Goldman Sachs a wide range of training programs, for employees as well as up-and-coming managers and executives. These include Women Leadership Camps and Summits, MBA and Undergraduate Camps for Black, Hispanic and Native American Studies, and its Women Partner Advocacy Group.

A five-year initiative known as 10,000 Women, in addition, tries to bring business and management education to female entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets.