Stacey Cunningham makes history as first female president of New York Stock Exchange

Friday's opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange ushered in a new trading day – and a new era for the Exchange itself. Presiding over the weekday ritual was Stacey Cunningham, the first woman named to lead the NYSE in its 226-year history.    

"It never gets old walking onto the trading floor," Cunningham told CBS News' Dana Jacobson.

Cunningham has called the NYSE home since 1994.
 
"Your first memory of the New York Stock Exchange is what?" Jacobson asked.
 
"So I was and engineering student and I sort of through happenstance ended up with an internship on the trading floor. … As soon as I heard all the sounds and the energy and the pace, I knew it was home for me," Cunningham said.

She then climbed the ranks on Wall Street. Starting as a floor clerk and specialist she worked her way up. Now, 24 years after that NYSE internship, Cunningham is breaking a glass ceiling as its first female president.

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New York Stock Exchange President Stacey Cunningham (left) with CBS News' Dana Jacobson  CBS News


 "It's overwhelming. We have a very high profile role in global commerce, in the capital markets and so being the face of that is a little intimidating," she said.
 
Cunningham said she didn't notice she was one of few women when she first started.

"I know that's a surprising answer," she said, adding, "I know I was outnumbered. I mean, I can tell the difference between a man and a woman. But it was not – it just wasn't top of mind for me."
 
Thanks in large part, Cunningham said, to Muriel Siebert. Back in 1967 Siebert paved the way, becoming the first woman to own a seat on the NYSE.
 
"She kept pushing and she had to get sponsored to be a woman, and the first nine people she asked said no. And even when she finally did get in, there wasn't a whole lot of support for having her there. So she did that hard work and that's inspirational," Cunningham said.
 
But not all the doors were fully opened.
 
"So they turned phone booth No. 5… they turned it into a ladies room. Right next to phone booth No. 5 was the men's room. And they were literally big saloon doors, attendants, couches, the whole thing," Cunningham said. "When I left the trading floor in 2005, it was still the phone booth upstairs. It was only within the past 10, 11 years that there was a proper ladies room there."
 
Cunningham isn't the only female on the move on Wall Street this year. The beloved Fearless Girl statue is heading from its spot in front of the Charging Bull to her own perch in front of the NYSE.

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The Charging Bull and Fearless Girl statues are shown on Lower Broadway in New York on March 22, 2017. AP


 "I think she's the greatest thing. I love her," Cunningham said, adding that "she challenges corporate America to do better."

"You know when you look at the number of women in the corner office as CEOs, less than 5 percent of the Fortune 500 women and not necessarily growing. … But for me, I just look at her, and I think she is taking on the world and she is not afraid at all."