Why Women are Losing Ground on Wall Street.
October 27, 2010 .
The recession has not been kind to women on Wall Street. Consider these recent reports in the financial press: Even though women hold a minority of financial sector jobs, five times as many women as men were laid off after the start of the recession, according to Bloomberg News. Meanwhile, the pay gap between men and women in the industry, Bloomberg adds, actually widened between 2000 and 2007. The result is that while women in the broader work force have made significant progress toward pay and opportunity parity, they have actually lost ground on Wall Street.According to The Wall Street Journal, 9.6% more men are working in finance now than 10 years ago, but 2.6% fewer women. Among young workers, the numbers are even starker: 16.5% fewer women aged 20 to 35 and 21.8% fewer women aged 20 to 24.
In short, the number of women even choosing to work on Wall Street has dropped, and many of those who do start out there are deciding to leave or are being pushed out.
Many back-office and administrative jobs -- those often held by women -- have been lost for good due to technology and outsourcing, according to the Journal.
Why, after so many years of Wall Street apologizing for its poor treatment of women and promising to do better, do things seem worse? And are there consequences? If women are not interested in these jobs and are finding more opportunities with better pay parity in other sectors of the economy, does it matter that they are not on trading desks, doing merger deals or managing IPOs?
The conventional wisdom is that women value work-life balance. Since they know they will not find that on Wall Street, they are steering clear of finance for careers that have less pressure, shorter hours and more time for family. But the reality isn't that simple. "I resist looking at this as an issue of 'women don't want to work as hard,'" says Monica McGrath, an adjunct professor of management at Wharton. "They do work hard and want to, but they want it to pay off." And on Wall Street, she notes, it's not clear that it will. "Women were less likely to say they identified with finance jobs, especially investment banking. [Because] these jobs were seen as macho, the women believed that companies would be looking for more macho attributes" and thus would be less likely to hire women. Instead, he notes, female MBAs gravitated toward business development and marketing. Those who studied finance tended to put that interest to work in general management jobs.