A new sexism rampant on Wall Street?
Where have all the women gone? And why?
Unfortunately, the ranks of women who worked in financial services industry has plunged over the last decade, falling by 141,000, or 2.6 percent. The number of men employed by the industry, meanwhile, grew by 389,000, or 9.6 percent, according Fins, which reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The declines are especially apparent at brokerages, investment banks and asset management companies.
The shifts contradict changes in the overall workforce, in which the ranks of women grew 4.1 percent over the past decade while the ranks of men grew 0.5 percent. The drop in financial services women coincided with a massive jump in compensation that perhaps should have acted as a lure. Just as disconcerting, the numbers also suggest women were disproportionally affected by the layoffs stemming from the last recession.
So what's going on?
One might conclude that Wall Street has become an inhospitable place for women to work. To counter that idea, one could point to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data that says the number of sexual harassment charges in finance, insurance and real estate has decreased by roughly half from 2005 to 2009--from 287 to 119. Across all industries, such complaints were flat over the same period. But the fact is there are simply fewer women in the industry, so fewer complaints would logically follow. One might also argue that women have become increasingly reluctant to file claims, especially at a time when jobs are scarce.
So is this the new face of sexism? On one hand, there are plenty of cases of traditional harassment. We've seen some interesting twists, like the case of Debrahlee Lorenzana, a former banker in a midtown Citigroup branch, who claimed in an arbitration case that she was fired for being too good-looking.
But perhaps the most telling was the Mommy Track suit by a former Goldman Sachs executive. Perhaps we're moving into a new era of gender bias, in which it's is harder to pin down and much less overt. All companies now at least pay lip service to gender equality of opportunity. Overt acts of sexism in general, especially at the big firms, are no longer tolerated, though they may still go on. But why aren't more women opting to work in the industry?
Does it have to do with the nature of the work? A career on Wall Street tends to be all encompassing, and more women are likely concluding that they cannot possibly "have it all" if they continue to work in the industry. The most successful female executives tend to have stay-at-home husbands, allowing them to focus on their careers. Those who want it all--to be a great parent and to be a top executive--may have more luck in another industry. Some might argue that the reality of today's workplace is that you cannot truly have it all, whether your are male or female.
All of this is worth more academic study. - Jim