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Retired VP, E.F. Hutton
Christine Gillis's apartment in a posh San Diego-area retirement community overflows with souvenirs of an uncommon life—art and worldwide travel treasures, including an impressive collection of bulls. "I like bulls," Gillis says.
No surprise there. Christine Diest-Lorgion Gillis, BS 44, was among the first women to charge Wall Street's old-boy barricades and become a registered representative of the New York Stock Exchange. Now recognized by the NYSE as a "pioneer," she can look back proudly on a successful 45-year career.
Gillis studied business administration at Cal and became interested in stocks in 1953, when a family friend's company went public. Seven years later, when her marriage ended and she found herself on her own with 13-year-old twin daughters, Gillis knew exactly what she wanted to do: move to New York and work as a stockbroker.
But no one would hire her, except as a secretary. "My bachelor's degree in business didn't mean a thing," Gillis recalls. "Women were zilch on Wall Street."
So she typed by day and took night courses at the New York Institute of Finance. Gillis soon passed the NYSE and National Association of Securities Dealers tests and became a registered representative. Then she landed a $6 million account, and doors flew open. It was 1963.
"The Dow was about 500 then," she recalls. "Volume was 5 to 7 million shares a day, and people were making money."
Gillis went on to found the Women Stockbrokers' Association, the industry's first and only professional organization for women. Her picture appeared in an industry publication above the caption: "Nothing to lose but chains."
After five years in Manhattan, Gillis returned to Los Angeles, where her twins attended UCLA. Within a year, she'd built a new client base and outproduced the men in her office. In 1975, she led members of the Women Stockbrokers on a tour of Europe's major stock exchanges and later met with First Lady Betty Ford.
After becoming a certified financial planner in 1978, Gillis capped her career in finance as a vice president at E.F. Hutton and then Dean Witter. At 87, she remains an astute investor, bullish about the market's resilience."The stock market will never die," she says. "Portfolios are still a girl's best friend." –Sandra Millers Younger