Sexism on Wall Street: New Chapter, Same Book

February 8, 2019

Way, way, back in 2006, in only the 10th article ever published in the Blog: Why Is The NYSE And NASD Soft On Racism And Sexism? ( Blog / March 9, 2006), I offered the following condemnation of Wall Street and its regulators:

Please, show me the cases those regulators brought in the past 50 years in which member firms were charged with permitting racial or sexual discrimination/harassment. And what's the message? The regulators unwittingly encourage intolerant behavior by not deeming these practices to be conduct that offends basic notions of "high principles" and "honor." Do the SROs see such conduct as nothing more than an indiscretion? 

Wall Street is no longer a quaint road between a church, on one end, and a river, on the other. It is a metaphor for the entire capitalist world. And that world, which we all live in, is populated with minorities and women. Try as Wall Street has for generations to marginalize those two groups, the fact is now inescapable. The securities markets in the United States are in a battle with international markets. If we don't re-tool our industry to include more minorities and women in meaningful roles, we will inevitably lose out to more enlightened competitors. The NYSE may well become a luxury residential condominium. NASD may well become an off-shore gambling site. I can think of nothing more disgusting than to know that you are capable of doing a job but are denied employment solely based upon conditions of your birth. 

The Head Count

Frankly, my clarion call for justice and equality largely fell on deaf ears. Oh sure, there's progress. Wall Street's public relations machinery trumpets the statistics about how there are X% more minorities and women on the payroll. Ummm, yeah, sure -- amazing. Next time you're in a brokerage firm's branch office, do a head count of the female stockbrokers -- and, no, don't count the Sales Assistants, and, no, don't count the receptionist or secretaries, and, no, don't count all those folks in salaried positions in human resources or the back-office. Just count the heads of women who are commission-paid stockbrokers. Did you find that 50% of the commissioned stockbrokers in the branch office were women? Given that it's now 2019, your explanation for the lack of diversity is what exactly? And while you're pondering your explanation, howsabout you also come up with the answer as to why virtually every receptionist and secretary is a women. Then there's that other anomaly of branch office life by which the male sales assistants are often viewed as earning their chops towards becoming a stockbroker, but the female sales assistants are being groomed for a permanent career as a sales assistant (albeit a "registered" sales assistant). Of course, let's not just gang up on Wall Street's broker-dealers. Go ahead and knock yourself out counting the females and minorities at Registered Investment Advisory firms, on corporate Boards, in the C-Suites, or in Congress. 

Susan Antilla Continues to Tell The Story

Among the more eloquent and persistent voices to weigh in on sexism on Wall Street is veteran journalist Susan Antilla, the author of "Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: The Landmark Legal Battles That Exposed Wall Street's Shocking Culture of Sexual Harassment" (2002). As Antilla noted some 14 years after her landmark book's publication in "Decades After 'Boom-Boom Room' Suit, Bias Persists for Women" (DealBook, New York Times / May 22, 2016) :

Brokerage firms today say they deal swiftly with harassers and have developed programs to mentor and showcase high-achieving women. Branch managers at Morgan Stanley, which operated a brokerage joint venture with Smith Barney until acquiring it in 2013, can earn up to an additional $150,000 a year by recruiting and developing diverse advisers, a spokesman said. Last year, nearly 50 percent of financial adviser trainees hired were female or members of minority groups, he added.

He declined to say what percentage of the firm's current brokers are women.

Women are slowly joining the senior ranks of Wall Street firms. Last year, women at Deutsche Bank represented 20.5 percent of the firm's directors and managing directors, up from 17.1 percent in 2011, according to its 2015 human resources report. Goldman Sachs's latest class of managing directors was 25 percent female, the highest proportion since that title was created in the mid-1990s.

The least progress has been made in pay. Last week, a managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch filed a gender-discrimination complaint in federal court in New York, noting that her 2015 bonus was $1.55 million while her male counterpart's was $5.5 million. The bank has a "bros club" culture, the complaint says. A bank spokesman said, "We take all allegations of inappropriate behavior seriously and investigate them thoroughly."

Last year, women filled 31 percent of jobs in the "securities, commodities and financial services sales agents" group tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but they earned only 52 cents for every dollar that men made, according to a study released last month by the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington.

A Plague on Your House

Over the thirteen years since I published that 10th article on BrokeAndBroker, I've often written about the disparate treatment meted out to women on Wall Street by the industry's regulators. For a few of my jeremiads, read:

Abuse And Harassment On Wall Street ( Blog / January 25, 2018)

Another Wall Street Fall Girl Takes A FINRA Flop ( Blog / September 25, 2015)

Hacker Tricks Morgan Stanley In Wire Transfer ( Blog / January 27, 2014)

Sexist Double Standard? Female Sales Assistant Sanctioned By FINRA ( Blog / October 26, 2012)

duQuesnay Dukes It Out With The Boys

On January 14, 2019, a female investment advisor grabbed Wall Street's ol' boys club by its balls and got the guys' attention. If you haven't read her watershed commentary, do so here: In her concluding paragraphs, duQuesnay notes that:

Harvard's Kennedy School found the use of blind auditions for symphony orchestras increased the likelihood of female musicians' being selected by as much as 30 percent - to the shock of many conductors who did not believe they were biased. The percent of female musicians in the five highest-ranked orchestras in the nation increased by 15 percent over a 23-year period. Similarly innovative measures might be necessary to bring about change in the business world.

Whatever the paths taken, the future of finance should be female. It wouldn't just be more fair. If the years of data are any indication, it's a future in which all of us would make more money. Find me a good argument against that.

Frumento Summons Beyonce

Impressed by duQuesnay's Op-Ed, Guest Blogger Aegis Frumento, Esq. penned his own take on the sexism still extant on Wall Street. His effort was published as:

( Blog / January 24, 2019)

Women are well-positioned to turn Wall Street on its head. Women investment styles lean towards solid and honest financial planning. It's no surprise, then, that almost a quarter of all CFP's are women, and growing. It's also no surprise that women investors prefer dealing with women advisers. Women investors find women advisers to be less patronizing, more empathetic to their individual needs and concerns, and generally more "in sync" with their unique financial goals than typical male advisers.

Josh Brown Interviews Blair DuQuesnay

In a compelling interview of Blair DuQuesnay, CFP, CFA, by industry veteran Joshua Brown, we are afforded a frank discussion about Wall Street's dubious record of attracting women to its ranks. For many Wall Street professionals, the interview will be an uncomfortable reflection from an unflattering mirror:

Where are all the female financial advisors? (The Reformed Broker, Blair DuQuesnay interviewed by Joshua M. Brown / February 7, 2019)

SIDE BAR: And before you grammar police drive me nuts, it's "duQuesnay" in the New York Times Op-Ed but other online iterations have it "Du Quesnay" and "DuQuesnay." Since I'm sure that she knows how her name is spelled, I'll leave it to her to clear up any confusion. You can also follow her on her "The Belle Curve" blog: