Professor Roberta Karmel, Who Broke Barriers on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C., Dies at 86

Professor Roberta Karmel, a longtime educator and leading authority in domestic and international securities regulations who served as the first female commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) among other distinguished accomplishments in public service, academia, and legal practice, died on Saturday, March 23. She was 86.

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Throughout her professional career, Karmel made a significant impact in areas where few female attorneys had previously ventured and took pride in laying the groundwork for the generations of women who followed. In 1972, she joined the top Wall Street law firm Rogers & Wells (now Clifford Chance) and became one of its first female partners. This achievement came despite the sexism in that era, with one law firm higher-up telling her, “While we are ready for female associates, we’re not ready for a female partner,” a memory shared in a profile of Karmel in the 2022 Brooklyn Law Notes.

Whether or not the legal industry was ready for a woman in certain roles proved immaterial to Karmel, who had joined the SEC right out of law school as one of the few women on staff. She was later the first woman nominated to the role of SEC commissioner by President Jimmy Carter and, after being confirmed, made history when she joined the leadership at the agency from 1977 through 1980.

Source: Professor Roberta Karmel, Who Broke Barriers on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C., Dies at 86