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Women take their place as stockbrokers

Women are playing an ever expanding role in the Rogue Valley's investmentcommunity, both as investors and brokers.

And they're becoming more active; several brokerages and financial planningfirms offer special seminars for women who want to learn about investing.

Since 1991, Janice Gregg, of the Oregon State University Extension Service,has organized a seven-week series' of financial planning workshops. They'renow offered twice a year.

Joyce Ward, of Medford, translated her 20 years of experience as a stockbrokerand financial planner into a recently published book, Finding YourFinancial Freedom: Every Woman's Guide to Success.

She encourages women to go beyond their apprehension to seize controlof their own finances. Her book is available for $16.95 at Barnes &Noble Booksellers.

Brokerages were dominated by men before women ventured into the field.One of the first was Cheryl Patton of A.G. Edwards & Son Inc., who wasregistered in 1981.

The brokers were male and the support staff was female, shesaid. She previously was a pastor's wife, an office administrator, a secretaryand an assistant in a stock brokerage.

I discovered the area fascinated me, but I had a boring job,she said, so she took steps to become a registered broker.

I found it was more difficult to gain the respect of my peers thanclients, she said. But there were as many people who would treatme as an equal as those who didn't.

She said she didn't notice a lot of chauvinism in those days.

I don't go around looking for attitudes against women, sheadded. But I don't remember being furious.

She said being a woman is rarely an issue with clients any more.

It's a matter of building long-standing relationships and I dowell, she said. I care about the person more than just theirmoney. That is my strength.

Patton said the only times gender has been an issue with clients waswith older widows.

They are used to having men in their households deal with finances,she explained. They never had any experiences in their life that saythat's OK. A couple of times they were so uncomfortable that I had to suggestthat they go somewhere else. I've also dealt with others who would be intimidatedto talk to a man.

Patton said she has offered seminars for women, but she prefers not togear them to a particular gender.

Rebecca Smith, of PaineWebber, has been a broker for 12 years after adiversified career ­ court reporter, computer programmer, worker inaccounting and real estate.

All of these have added to what I need in this job, she said.She became a broker at the urging of her brother, a broker at Merrill Lynchin Everett, Wash.

Acceptance of female brokers has grown through the years, she said.

Years ago, men were hesitant to deal with a woman because theydidn't know women are good at this, she said. Now it's turnedaround. I'm in the top quintile for new accounts.

She said care for clients is a strength shared by women brokers.

The most satisfying thing about this job is working with people,she said. It's the joy that you get when you see their lives improve.That's what makes it all worthwhile.

While women still account for just 10 percent of brokers nationwide,the Medford office of Merrill Lynch counts four women among its 11 brokers.

Elizabeth Presicci, of Merrill Lynch, said the demands of the job keepsome women out of the field.

I work at a minimum from 6:30 to 5 and a couple of evenings a weekand sometimes part of a Saturday, she said. That's possible, she added,because her husband is in a position to tend the children before and afterschool.

This is a very demanding business, said Presicci, who hasbeen a broker for a year.

Getting started is the toughest part of the career, Patton said.

Getting started is an all-consuming process, she said. It'sprobably good that I was single while I was going through that. It stilltakes a lot of my time. I have to make a choice to not let it consume mylife.

Smith concurred.

You get paid by how hard you work, she said. In thefirst two or three years, it's hard on small children. But now it's moreflexible. My daughter was sick this morning and called me from school. Icould go home and take care of her. How many jobs let you do that?