In her recently released book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, journalist Hanna Rosin argues that the changing nature of the economy favors women over men. With the disappearance of the manufacturing sector, the skills that are valued in the economy have, Rosin contends, permanently changed. The ability to sit still and focus, to work collaboratively, and to adjust to a more fluid and less hierarchical workforce are qualities required of the modern day worker. Because women do these things as well as men, men have lost their natural advantage.
Rosin points to sociological shifts to prove her point. As of 2009, women became the majority of the American workforce; women now make up 54% of managers and professionals; and, for every two men who graduate from college, three women do the same.
The Macho World of Finance
Though Rosin’s main focus doesn’t directly relate to women on Wall Street, in a recent interview on NPR’s Morning Edition she addressed the state of women in the financial services industry.
The interviewer asked Rosin, “Do you imagine in 10 years that Goldman Sachs would be run or dominated by women? Or that Wall Street firms would be half women and they would be calling the shots?”
“Finance is going to be the last one to go. They’re going to hold on the hardest. I think finance is just very macho. Finance is the one that holds on the most tightly to its frat culture.”
Wall Street is a notorious boy’s club. And, despite improvements, Professor Louise Marie Roth writes in her book, Selling Women Short: Gender and Money on Wall Street,
“Since the late 1990s, three major Wall Street firms—Citigroup’s Smith Barney, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley—have each paid out more than $100 million to resolve sex discrimination suits, even while denying that any systematic discrimination against women occurs within their walls. On April 19, 2004, for instance, a panel of arbitrators awarded $2.2 million to Hydie Sumner, a female stockbroker and one of 2,800 women who brought a class action suit against Merrill Lynch for sex discrimination. Morgan Stanley also paid a settlement of $54 million on the eve of court proceedings in an EEOC sex discrimination case. The lead plaintiff, Allison Schieffelin, received $12 million, and the settlement granted another $2 million to diversity programs to promote the advancement of women within the firm.”
Equal compensation is also a problem throughout the financial services industry. Though women, on average make 77.4 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, Bloomberg News reports that this pay gap is much worse on Wall Street.
Bloomberg‘s Frank Bass writes:
The six jobs with the largest gender gap in pay and at least 10,000 men and 10,000 women were in the Wall Street-heavy financial sector: insurance agents, managers, clerks, securities sales agents, personal advisers and other specialists. Advanced- degree professions proved no better predictors of equality. Female chief executives earned 74 cents for every $1 made by male counterparts.
Moving Beyond the Frat Culture
The question becomes how is change possible in this deeply entrenched, male-dominated environment? An example from the Tech world may provide some insight.
In her memoir The Boy Kings: A Journey Into the Heart of the Social Network, former Facebook employee Katherine Losse recounts the trials and tribulations of being one of the few women working in the social media giant’s “unrepentantly boyish company culture.”
Losse writes that things changed the moment Sheryl Sandberg was hired. According to Losse, Sandberg addressed several issues of men behaving badly towards women colleagues with elegant and effective deftness. And, by doing so, she elevated Facebook above its frat culture.
The upper echelon of Financial Services, like Tech, is still primarily a boy’s club. But, as more and more women make their way into leadership positions, they too can play a powerful role in transforming company culture into something that is inclusive of, and open to, all.