Fact: “Women in financial activities earn only 71% of what men earned: women made $732 a week, compared to $1,039 a week for men.”Fact: “Men (are) twice as likely as women to be at the CEO/senior executive level.”
Fact: “A recent study of 2,000 of the world’s top performing companies revealed that only 29 of them (1.5 per cent) have female CEOs. Of the Fortune Global 500, 2.6 per cent have female CEOs .”
We all know the broad-strokes, if not the specifics: women make less. They’re less “powerful.” They do not, in most women’s opinions anyway, get a “fair shake” in the finance/business world.
In turn, a cottage industry has emerged making girls feel better about underperforming. Initiatives like “2020 Women on Boards” are gaining momentum. “Girl-in-Finance-Blogs” whine “I’m a pretty girl and no one takes me seriously!” while women cling to books like “Suits: A Woman on Wall Street,” a tome outlining one girl’s horrifying journey through the annals of banking…well, her 2 years of it, anyway. Until she quit, wrote a book about it, and now…travels the country, speaking about her harrowing 2 years spent in banking.
Here’s the one fact lost amongst the crying sisterhood: in this humble finance girl’s opinion, women DESERVE to be treated less seriously at work, in the boardroom, and on Wall Street. It’s their fault. Most behave, work, and operate against their own best interests.
Here are the 5 reasons why/how:
1) Opt-Out, Cop Out: This is the typical “Oh, I’ve put in a few years in finance, but don’t really want to put in any more ‘hard work.’ But I keep b1tching about how unfair the world is!”
Say there’s a girl – let’s call her JC – who fancies herself a finance mogul (or at least would be – if not for men!). Her resume reads impressively: A few years as an Analyst at one bulge-bracket, a Summer Associate at another (in addition to a few other “financey” jobs); she’s a Top-Tier MBA who now runs a web-start-up. Also, she never shuts the hell up about how much she’s doing to empower girls who should be, again, if not for men!, ruling the (business) world.
But what a girl like JC doesn’t (or refuses to) recognise, is that once you leave the finance/business game – you do your fashion, media, or web start-up or enter the often-less-demanding-corporate-ranks – you can’t blame men for the lower wages, lower levels of influence, and overall decrease-in-relevancy such a move implies. Whining about “why the world’s unfair!,” all while leaving the very ranks in which this is the case, doesn’t make you relevant. Work – or, more importantly, success – does.
An average Opt-Out, Cop Out, like the author of “Suits: A Woman on Wall Street,” spends much more time concentrating on how difficult her career was in finance than she ever did actually becoming good at it.
2) Gender Ghettoization: “We girls need to stick together!” is seemingly the motto of every ridiculous woman’s group, gathering, and cupcake reception. “Screw boys – girl power!” is all but written in candy-coloured icing consumed at these events, along with champagne and self-entitled self-righteousness.
My counter-point: yes, being in any minority is often extremely lonely. In my experience, it’s natural to want a connection with someone “like you.” This only works, however, to a point: by cornering in romantically-lit champagne bars, girls in finance/business are ghettoizing themselves.
To wit: if women make up such a low percentage of those in management ranks, doesn’t it make sense that instead of networking exclusively with each other, women should instead reach out to the power base in their fields, not other girls “oppressed” by the almighty-male? My anatomy has never excluded me from an industry-networking event. In my humble opinion, women would do better to network with those who matter, not those who look like they do. By gaining power from the inside, we will more effectively pave the way for those who come after.
3) “Men are why I don’t make as much Ken Griffin!“: Here’s the thing, girls. I love that so many of you run web-start-ups, work at major fashion/CPG firms, and rock the marketing, human resources, and business development areas of trading and investment shops. These are not, however, profit centres.
On average, however, those who manage, invest, etc. money, make more than those who don’t. So, dear fellow women, while it’s great that you’re “focused on the sales part of sales and trading,” you ARE going to earn less than those who work in other, more central, roles (who are, coincidentally, mostly men). Same goes for quitting banks, funds, etc., for the corporate – or, even worse, non-profit – track. The attrition rate for women is atrocious, and is reflected in income, snr. management, etc. stats. Girls – if you’re comfortable quitting, supporting men in marketing, bus dev, etc. roles, or starting a “feel-good” company (i.e. motivational speaking, social-networking, etc.), your income/power stats will reflect that. These roles are accessories to those who make the money. And are simply worth less.
4) “But boys are so mean!”: Without naming names here – and giving press to those who don’t deserve it – I’m referencing here a terrifyingly mundane Private Equity Blog (msg me if you’re curious), written by one of the few girls in a PE shop on Wall Street.
PEB’s femme-de-finance spends her days gossiping about the mean boys of finance!, how she is one of the few girls at her PE firm, and how she hopes the mean boys! who mistake her for an admin (which is a statistically-easy mistake to make) don’t drive her out finance.
In short, this girl sounds like a teenager upset that a boy tricked her into sleeping with him, then never called her back. PEB’s thesis about changing the finance world involves anonymously complaining and gossiping, then quitting PE (most likely to write a book about her tough few years in finance)? Look, I’m with her – it’s frustrating when a doltish-dude treats you like his assistant. But quitting isn’t going to change anything. Work harder, better, and smarter, and he’ll be working for you one day.
PS: should anyone who works or contracts for me be caught writing a blog like PEB’s, I’d be furious. Like, fire-you-so-fast-you-won’t-remember-your-name-furious.
5) And finally…Laziness, aka When you can’t do, marry!: This is purely observational, but me-senses many girls go into finance because, well, graduating from an Ivy-League, getting immediately married, and putting-on-the-just-got-married-15 (while eschewing work) just isn’t done now-a-days.
So instead, many of my female “peers” go to college, work on Wall Street for a few years, do the MBA-thing (many treating grad school as their personal dating pools), then, after getting married, slowly and almost imperceptively stop working. Do these girls quit entirely? No. But they certainly take on less stressful, important, and central roles, retreating instead in the corporate, marketing, and HR ranks.
Nothing’s necessarily wrong with this, but these shifts from the career track to the mummy/social one is INEVITABLY reflected in income and power stats. Let’s be honest: most of these women were never REALLY into working in finance. Otherwise, why do so many leave so quickly (in my merely anecdotal experience, anyway)? To that end, let’s check in with PEB’s author in a few years and see where she’s at…I’m guessing the life-script will have written itself (and she’s married to a guy in private equity.)
So there we have it. Sure, women, on average, earn less and have less power in the finance/corporate world. But it’s hardly the gender-war most girls would have you believe. Yeah, finance is tough – and I’ll concede it IS tougher as a woman – but so’s anything worth changing. Let’s hope at least a few girls read this, start focusing on taking over the world, and start working to do so. And hopefully become so competent in the process, we all stop crying like little girls and start performing like competent finance professionals.