16 April 2023

100 years of women in the stock market

Today marks exactly 100 years since the first woman joined the Amsterdam Stock Exchange as a member: Henriëtte Wilhelmina Deterding (1899-1978). Globally, this move was seen as particularly early. It wasn’t until much later that women joined the New York (1967) and London (1973) stock exchanges. The 100th anniversary of this historic event is a good moment to put Henriëtte Deterding in the spotlight.

Henriëtte was not just any woman. She moved in high circles. She herself was a cousin of Henri Deterding, the big man behind stock market fund Royal Oil (Shell). Her first husband in 1924 was a scion of the distinguished Van Eeghen family. After he died in 1928, she remarried in February 1930 to H.F. van Leeuwen, director of the Twentsche Bank, at that moment one of the leading banks in the Netherlands (now: ABN AMRO).

That she joined the stock exchange as its first female member in 1923 was no doubt related to her background and connections. But it clearly also had to do with her person. She emerges from the limited surviving records as a decisive and ambitious individual. She apparently had a good name within the exchange community. Nowadays, we might have referred to her as a ‘power woman’.

After her father’s death, she continued his business from April 1923 under the name Erven Jacob Deterding (“Heirs of Jacob Deterding”). Common custom and legal restrictions stipulated that while she was allowed to manage the business, she was not allowed to enter the trading floor herself during trading hours. Out of necessity, she left that work to three male employees with power of attorney and/or clerks. Her stock exchange membership lasted until 1 July 1931, when she retired from the Amsterdam Exchange due to the arrival of her first child. In the process, the business of the firm Erven Jacob Deterding, as far as is known, was transferred to Rotterdamsche Bank (now also ABN AMRO).

It is worth noting that there was never an exchange rule that excluded membership of women. Because of the spirit and common customs of the time, the exchange was nevertheless a man’s world. And no doubt also because of the law that stipulated until 1957 that married women had no legal capacity to act. So Henriëtte Deterding was clearly the exception that confirmed the rule, but she too had to seek permission from her husbands to be an exchange member.

Significantly, after her departure, it took until 1973 for a second woman to join the exchange in Amsterdam. And although the number of women in the stock market sector has increased in 2023, women still seem to be at a disadvantage in terms of joining the stock market and investing. This was one reason for ABN AMRO to send along a magazine, appropriately named ‘Henriëtte’, with the summer issue of the popular women’s magazine Linda to promote investing among women.