When they New York Stock Exchange, also known as NYSE, was founded in 1792, women in the United States couldn’t vote, write wills, or have property in their own names. Now that times have changed, 226 years later, a woman will oversee the NYSE for the first time. Intercontinental Exchange Inc. announced Tuesday that Stacey Cunningham, age 43, has been appointed the next president of the largest stock exchange in the world, New York Stock Exchange. Leaving her position as chief operating officer of NYSE group, Stacey will now be the first female to take on the role as president within the company. “As our COO Stacey Cunningham successfully managed our equities, equities derivatives and ETF businesses, distinguishing herself as a customer-focused leader who is respected across our industry.” Jeff Sprecher. Chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, said in a news release.
Stacey Cunningham’s journey to success dates back to 1994, when she started at the New York Stock Exchange as an intern. She was attending college at Lehigh University studying industrial engineering, and the exchange was struggling to adjust having women around. Nearly three decades had passed since the first woman bought her seat on the NYSE, but Journal reported that the women’s bathroom was still in a converted phone booth. Despite the challenges Cunningham faced, she was able to become a trading floor clerk within two years at the company. “I was a women trader on the floor, and I never thought about it. I never thought for a moment whether or not that could happen, and whether or not that was an opportunity available to me,” Cunningham told The Street earlier this year. She continues, “And it’s because Muriel paved the way. I think it’s just really important to recognize that anytime a woman pushes the boundaries and redefines the boundaries, she’s redefining them for everyone else that follows her.”
Back in 2005, Cunningham’s career took a detour as she left Wall Street to attend the Institute of Culinary Education. She told the Financial Times that working in the kitchen wasn’t so different from being on the trading floor because, both gigs required her to multitask and handle mistakes efficiently. According to her LinkedIn page, Cunningham then worked for Nasdaq from 2007 to 2012 before returning to NYSE. “I just don’t think your career is linear,” she told the Times. “I didn’t think it was going to be a problem to take time off, and I didn’t think it was going to be an issue coming back in. I felt like I learned a lot from my time away. Your skills are transportable.”
In 2015, she presented a speech advising people to choose the right goals. She Admitted that she never thought she would end up on Wall Street, but now she’s running things there. “It just took one day. One day to change my career path. The moment I walked into the building and onto the floor, I just knew it was the place that I belonged at that time,” Cunningham continues, “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.”