Women on Wall Street: As Many Leave the Industry, Some Live in Fear

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A lawsuit filed by three women who have accused investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS) of sex discrimination underscores one of the major trends on Wall Street in recent years: Despite a growing movement toward equality in the business world, financial services is an increasingly male-dominated industry.

"Statistics show that as women are leaving Wall Street, men are coming in," says Robert Ottinger, an employment lawyer in the financial district. "There are plenty of qualified women to work here, so it's not a question of qualifications. It's a question of preference and comfort for the employers."

Troublesome Trend

According to statistics gathered by Fin.com, in the past decade 141,0000 women, or 2.6% of the female workers in finance, left the industry, while the number of men working on Wall Street grew by 389,000, or 9.6%. The trend is particularly pronounced among young women aged 20-35, where 16.5% of women left the financial industry.

"There are laws that prohibit sex discrimination and sexual harassment on the books, but the reality is they don't really work," Ottinger says. "Occasionally women get lucky, but what you don't hear about in the news are all the other people who are victims of this and no one ever hears their story."

The three women in the Goldman suit contend the investment bank pays its male employees more than women and gives men more frequent promotions. The complaint says women make up 29% of the firm's vice presidents, 17% of its managing directors and 14% of its partners.

"The number of women in management positions at Goldman Sachs dwindles as the level of management rises," the women said in their lawsuit, which seeks class-action status for women who have worked as executives at the firm.

Denials, Settlements, and Surprising Statistics

"We believe this suit is without merit," a Goldman Sachs spokesman said in an emailed statement to Daily Finance. "People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals."

Three female investment advisers at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) also sued their employer in March, claiming they had been discriminated against. The bank denied the charges.

In 2004, investment bank Morgan Stanley (MS) settled accusations that it had paid women less than men and denied them promotions by paying the plaintiffs $54 million.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the number of sexual harassment charges in finance, insurance and real estate has decreased by half from 2005 to 2009, from 287 cases to 119.

Ottinger maintains that discrimination complaints are declining on Wall Street not because there is less discrimination in the workplace, but because women are more fearful for their jobs. "What's really going on is that it's a small community," she says. 'When you get to the higher levels, word travels. If you sue a company or make an accusation of gender bias or sexual harassment, there is a perception that your career will be over."

The three women involved in the Goldman Sachs suit, Lisa Parisi, 48, Christina Chen-Oster, 39, and Shanna Orlich, 30, have all left the firm.

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moorediversified

I probably will get to see a time when the women are a huge majority of the workplace and disabilities set in like those in men and the woman spends the rest of her life wondering if it was all worth it. Yes, her ego was at least satisfied for a few years.

September 29 2010 at 5:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
suebeegrl

Wall Street a Shark Tank? I beg to differ. Wall Street is none other than a gigantic kindergarten playground run by a bunch of namby pamby misogynists – whose primary job is to take everyone else’s (investors) hard earned cash and treat it like monopoly money. There are women who make it up the ranks but they are hand picked barren bulldogs chosen specifically to do the dirty work for these spineless narcissists. And god forbid if you are a competent, intelligent, and attractive woman beware. Did I mention ‘thin’ as well? Double beware and get the hell out of Dodge. Like a heat seeking missile, these bullies will eat you for breakfast and will stop at nothing to take you down. And if you are gutsy (and naive) enough to challenge this Goliath, expect years of career ending painful litigation. I should know, been there done that.

September 18 2010 at 12:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pbesmer

Whenver women come up short compared to men someone immediately cries discrimination. Not every one and everything is equal. Maybe men just do better in the cut throat world of business. Women do better in many other thing, so it balances out. Like why are there more psychologist women? Let it be. Everyone in this country has a good chance to do anything they want, if its their skill and goal

September 17 2010 at 2:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Bruce

I worked for ATT in the late 70's when the women's and civil rights movements were transforming the workplace. I didn't notice an influx of incompetent women or blacks but it appeared that the concept of meritocracy was sacrificed to accomodate this process. This allowed the wrong people, men and women, to advance leading to a workplace concerned wih form over substance. I suspect the same thing happened in the government workplace.I suspect that this effect was (and still is) worse for our economy than any or all of globalization, unions, or "greedy Wall Street". I am for fairness and equality of oppurnity but in this case I think the price was too high.

September 17 2010 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MSmailbox

I think that women, particularly those at Morgan Stanly (MS), are looking for more than just a paycheck. Many would like to make a home, have children and escape from the "male-dominated" workplace. Conversely, many men are tired of playing "the homemaker." We're seeing the attraction of doing the un-natural, diminish. People are getting in touch with their real selves, after decades of attempting to do the reverse of what comes natural. Perhaps , those who think that this is "blasphemy," ought to get in touch with God (and their own self, as well).

September 17 2010 at 11:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
grapost

So men dominate Wall Street jobs! Women took over the Real Estate field yet you don't see any News Stories about "Why Men Are Leaving The Real Estate Business". It's OK for a Women to take over and dominate a vocation but not men. It's always viewed as a problem when Men dominate. There will ALWAYS be Gender dominated vocations simply because one Gender is more compatible to it or prefers it more. Men dominate Engineering Field simply because Women DON'T take Engineering courses, NOT because of discrimination. The media and WOMEN are always play the "Blame Game" when things aren't as "politically correct" as Sociologists preach that they should be.

September 17 2010 at 11:19 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
grapost

So men dominate Wall Street jobs! Women took over the Real Estate field yet you don't see any News Stories about "Why Men Are Leaving The Real Estate Business". It's OK for a Women to take over and dominate a vocation but not men. It's always viewed as a problem when Men dominate. There will ALWAYS be Gender dominated vocations simply because one Gender is more compatible to it or prefers it more. Men dominate Engineering Field simply because Women DON'T take Engineering courses, NOT because of discrimination. The media and WOMEN are always play the "Blame Game" when things aren't as "politically correct" as Sociologists preach that they should be.

September 17 2010 at 11:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
tomgold125

You've got Andrea Mitchel of ABC news in Iran dressed like a muslim wearing the burka showing respect. Comes back to the USA and tries to tear down the system here. Almost like they would enjoy an Iranian style country here. Obama does the same thing.

September 17 2010 at 10:05 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Barbara

Women will never be treated equally across the board. Why do men not get it. Without women they would not be here. I worked for years with men. I got paid less and the man whose desk faced mine would throw his work on my desk when I finished my work before him. Men are slower not matter what they do. Hee Hee Yes even that.

September 17 2010 at 9:40 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
me817

Their joking, right? In my long career, I have supervised males and females. Without exception, females bitch about everything and anything, do less work and take off many more days than males. But no male in any management position has the balls to say anything to them. Sexual harassment is often a myth in their own mind. We had one female who alleged that some guy was constantly "hitting" on her. He was a really nice guy and a good worker. When I interviewed him, I learned that he was gay and living with another male for years and had no interest in her at all other than try to make he comfortable in a male enviorment. She damn near got him fired for nothing more than being too nice.

September 17 2010 at 9:32 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply