There's a 'checkmate' for any woman's career on Wall Street

This week, Goldman Sachs reached an out-of-court settlement with former debt research analyst Sonia Pereiro-Mendez, who says she was discriminated against while working at the bank — particularly after she told her employer she was pregnant with her first child.

Over at efinancialcareers, Sarah Butcher dove into Goldman’s policies for its working mothers, and spoke to some current and former women with experience there. The situation is complex, but almost any way you look at it, it’s clear that climbing the career ladder at Goldman and trying to spend time with your family don’t mix.

On the one hand, Goldman has a lot of family-friendly policies in place: six months of maternity leave, a nursery in the building (in London, at least, according to this), and lactation rooms for new mothers to pump breast milk while at work. On paper, it’s a great place to work.

But family-friendly policies can’t change the culture. Getting ahead at Goldman still means putting work above all else, and that doesn’t change if you happen to give birth. Take this quote from an ex-Goldman executive director, who told Butcher, “When I was at Goldman I found that anyone — woman or man — who wanted to make partner or managing director would do ANYTHING. If a woman in that group had kids, she never saw them, just like the guys.”

But underneath this is the very real possibility that there is discrimination going on regardless of how hard a woman works. From the Guardian’s summary of the case:

Pereiro-Mendez alleged she was sidelined, subjected to sexist comments and that her basic annual salary of £250,000 in 2010 had been cut to £192,000 by 2012 – a few months after her first pregnancy was made public.

She had secretly recorded conversations with her managers and had planned to play extracts during three weeks of hearings.

Given that there’s a settlement, we’ll never know what is on those tapes, or how true Pereiro-Mendez’s allegations are. But for the sake of argument, let’s say it was true. What could she do, besides sue? And where does that get her?

The same former ED told Butcher, “No one will hire her. I hope she’s cool with that.”

When an ambitious woman — or any person, really — feels that discrimination stands between her and promotion, he or she is basically put into checkmate.

If they stays silent their career goes nowhere. If they speaks up publicly their career is likely over. And the world keeps spinning, not much different than it was before.

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