Guest Post from Yves Smith: Goldman Sachs’ Glass Ceiling Remains Intactby Yves Smith | New Deal 2.0
Without serious structural changes,
Wall Street will continue to look like a country club.
Three women filed a sex discrimination suit against Goldman seeking class action status. It has gotten some attention in the press and on the Web for not the best reasons, namely, the complaint recounts in some detail how one of the plaintiffs, Christina Chen-Oster, a convertible bonds sales rep, had had a colleague force himself on her after a business-related group outing to a strip club. When she reported it some time after the fact (the perp had asked her to keep it secret), she was increasingly ostracized and marginalized.
While the salacious allegations are a vivid reminder of the sort of indignities that women can experience even in ostensibly well-run firms, they are the most obnoxious and disheartening example of the second-class status that women typically occupy in male-dominated fields. The fact is that Goldman has had long-standing problems with women, and the lawsuit’s charges are far more damaging and potentially costly than the commentary indicates.
I joined Goldman in its corporate finance department nearly 30 years ago. Goldman had just been sued for sex discrimination, and the firm seemed eager to counter its reputation as the worst place for women on Wall Street. But it wasn’t clear to me that things had changed so much as the worst extremes were addressed. For instance, a highly respected Vice President had propositioned every woman in the department. He was finally hauled before the Management Committee and told to cut it out. I arrived at the firm to learn that there was a betting pool on whether he would revert to his old form with me. While he didn’t, a partner in the firm did make advances. When he eventually backed off, the fallback was to give me a checklist of the sort of woman he wanted to date and ask me to set him up with suitable candidates.
Fast forward, and while the firm now has policies on dating, the area where the rubber really hits the road, pay and promotion, appears to be as retrograde as ever. Some of this may result from the shift at Goldman from having a substantial investment banking business to one where traders, the most macho and individualistic players, are now dominant.
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