The Securities and Exchange Commission is turning into a girl’s club … and we like it.
When it was first announced that the head of the SEC, Mary Schapiro, was stepping down, we were kind of bummed.
But on the heels of Schapiro’s resignation, it was announced that President Obama would be appointing another woman in her place: Elisse Walter, who was appointed as an SEC commissioner by President Bush in 2008.
That made us happy not just because we love seeing women in high places that are traditionally the province of men. (You know, now would be a great time to officially change the title from Chairman to Chairwoman of the SEC.)
The SEC, a federal agency, is tasked with regulating the financial industry and making sure everyone plays by the rules when it comes to the stock market. (For example, rooting out insider trading.)
And we think women are especially well-suited for understanding and managing complex financial markets. That’s because woman are less likely to be overconfident when it comes to securities, and also tend to examine the market closely before making a move. We’ve even interviewed an expert who says women’s natural empathy and talent at deciphering emotions makes them suited for interpreting the motives of the market. Finally, there’s the question of whether women are just more honest overall, like this study suggests.
Excuse our generalization, but all this points to women as being deliberate and risk-averse decision makers–traits we want when it comes to corralling banks and traders into playing fair.
America, Meet Your New SEC Chairwoman
Walter has already had a taste of the position–she served as acting chairman in January 2009 until Schapiro’s appointment. Before that, she was a VP at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
A benefit of the appointment is that because Walter has already been confirmed to the commission, she can serve through 2013 without going through the Senate confirmation process. However, eventually Obama will have to officially nominate a new chair(wo)man and see her through the confirmation process, and it may or may not be her.
All eyes will be on Walter, as the SEC finalizes rules that are being crafted in response to the 2008 financial crisis. ”I’m confident that Elisse’s years of experience will serve her well in her new position, and I’m grateful she has agreed to help lead the agency,” Obama said in a statement.
Walter certainly doesn’t shy away from being the only woman in the room. She was one of the first female graduates from Yale undergrad, earning a degree in mathematics in 1971, then a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1974.
Outgoing Schapiro was tasked with reshaping the SEC after it failed to detect widespread fraud precipitating the financial crisis and Bernie Madoff‘s Ponzi scheme. While she presided over the largest settlement against a U.S. bank ever–$550 million paid by Goldman Sachs–she’s also been faulted for not being aggressive enough in pursuing and punishing individuals, and handing out only wrist slaps to several banks involved in mortgage fraud. Meanwhile, she came up against fierce opposition from Republicans and the financial industry as she tried to pursue financial reform.
It’s clear new Chairwoman Walter has her work cut out for her. No pressure, Elisse.