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Women on Wall St: Meet the First Woman To Be President of an Exchange

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Rosemary McFadden was the first woman president of any stock or futures exchange in the United States when she became president of the New York Mercantile Exchange, a.k.a. the NYMEX, back in 1984.

She went on to manage a staff of over 400 people, opened Exchange offices in Asia and Europe and was the NYMEX's chief global spokesperson.

Most importantly, she brought oil trading to the exchange making the NYMEX crude oil contract the benchmark for spot and futures trading. The introduction of that contract forever changed the way oil was priced.

So for Women's history Month, we had to talk to her.

TB: You became first president and CEO in 1984 -- what was that like? Do you remember getting any pushback?

RM:As the first female president of any Exchange in the US, there was large attention by the media. And for the vast majority of Exchange members, since the press was positive, they supported the decision.

But since we had recently launched the Crude Oil futures contract, I know there was skepticism in the energy sector about the potential viability of the hedging/price referencing of the Crude Futures contract (remember OPEC set the price of oil in those days).

TB: Globally, you became a leader in the world of energy -- you had to meet with tons of foreign government officials, industry executives, etc -- what was that like back then? Any interesting stories you remember?

RM: Since part of my responsibility was to represent the Exchange in front of the private sector and governments both here and overseas, I felt the pressure to make sure that I was knowledgeable about all aspects of the oil sector including how deliveries were made as well as the hedging/trading opportunities and how the Exchange functioned.

One incident really stands out. The first time I was to meet one of the titans of the industry in Houston. I was ushered into his office. He sat behind his desk and said, "What can I do for you little lady?" Thought to myself -- well you just wait till you see how your business is going to change.

TB: When you left the exchange your focus was on the development of international capital markets, why did you choose that over our domestic markets?

RM: Having traveled extensively during my time at NYMEX (we had re-branded during my tenure), I realized that many countries were not as advanced in their capital markets development. So when Price Waterhouse offered me an opportunity to join their international group, I accepted. I knew that a strong capital market would be part of the foundation for an emerging nation to ascend and perhaps one day also trade futures contracts.

TB: What would you tell your younger self today?

RM: Today I would tell my younger self, that nothing lasts forever so stay in the moment and above all do not forget the importance of family and friends.

TB: What would you tell young girls today?

RM: I would tell young girls today that -- yes, you too can be president!!

TB: If you could change one thing today, what would it be?

RM: If there was one thing I could change today, it would be that more women occupy the "C" suites, have parity on Boards of Directors of Fortune 500 companies and holding more senior elected offices. We are starting to see progress -- but it is still incremental.

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