DEJA VU, ALL OVER AGAIN
In 1970, a group of women who worked at Newsweek sued the company for gender discrimination. Though they had attended elite women’s colleges, had graduated with honors, and, like their male colleagues, were highly ambitious, they soon realized they were there only to support the “real” journalists: men. The women had been hired with the understanding that they would be allowed to write for the magazine, but soon discovered they were really there to “push carts of mail, clip stories from newspapers, fact-check, and occasionally mix a cocktail for an editor.”185 Lynn Povich, one of the women who participated in the Newsweek lawsuit, recounted in her book, The Good Girls Revolt, that they were told “women don’t write here.”
Unlike Ellen Pao, Lynn Povich and her team won their lawsuit. You’d think significant changes would be made in the ensuing years. And yes, women were added to the masthead and groundbreaking articles did get written by women. But is the culture all that different? Ask Jesse Ellison.
In 2009, Jesse was one of a new wave of female journalists at the magazine who found themselves experiencing some of the things Lynn and her colleagues dealt with all those years before. It wasn’t until Jesse and her peers learned about the lawsuit that they realized nothing had really changed. As Jesse told Lynn Povich, “So much of the language and culture was still the same. It helped drive home the fact that it was still the same place, the same institutional knowledge, the same Newsweek.”186
Jesse and her cohorts convinced the magazine to run a cover story entitled “Are We There Yet?”187 In it they revealed that women made up 39 percent of the masthead, up from 25 percent in 1970, but that men still wrote the vast majority of the articles. In 2009, men wrote forty-three of the forty-nine cover stories, a pattern that was consistent over time despite the fact that a woman, Tina Brown, was the editor in chief.
Newsweek isn’t the only place female journalists have faced discrimination. In the 1970s, The New York Times and other august newspapers and magazines were sued for how they treated women. Forty years later men still make up 69 percent of the bylines at The New York Times. In the field of journalism overall, men make up 60 percent of newspaper employees and 70 percent of newsroom editors, and men write 80 percent of newspaper op-eds. Men lead the way when it comes to “thought leader” magazines such as The New Yorker, too, typically garnering the vast majority of bylines. For example, in 2011, 242 bylines in The New Yorker were written by women; 613 were written by men. This pattern is standard for the magazine and others like it. As for “new media,” the record is not much better. For example, The OpEd Project reports that during a 12 week period in 2011, only 33 percent of op-eds on the Huffington Post and Salon were written by women.188
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Pipeline problem in journalism? Not according to the Journalism and Women Symposium, an advocacy group for female journalists. They report that, in the last decade, between 70 percent and 76 percent of all journalism and mass communications graduates have been women. Sigh …
Then, of course, there is the financial services industry. In the 1980s, it faced a similar set of lawsuits that the media industry had the decade before. Collectively, the lawsuits revealed a pervasive pattern of gender discrimination and sexual harassment against women that made working in the industry an utter hell.189 I know this story well.
In 1984, three of my closest friends took jobs on Wall Street after we graduated from college. They were part of the new wave of women entering the financial services sector. They were paid exceptionally well but worked long hours and, though we lived in the same city, I rarely saw them When I did, the stories they shared were enough to make you cry. Bosses who groped them, colleagues who mocked them, bonuses that paled in comparison to those of their male peers. They told me it was the price you had to pay for being a woman on Wall Street.
All three of my friends went on to business school Wharton, Stanford, and Harvard. None are still in the financial services industry today. One is a stay-at-home mom, another a part-time art and math teacher, and the third changed careers completely and now works as a producer in Hollywood. When I asked them what they remember about their jobs at Goldman Sachs, Smith Barney, and Morgan Stanley, one said, “I was completely unprepared for how hostile and sexist it was. I still shudder at the memory.”
Another said, “I’d like to believe it’s different for the current generation of women, but I have my doubts.”
You know it’s not much different. In 2002, Laura Zubulake sued UBS Warburg for gender discrimination similar to the kind my friends experienced. She won her case and was awarded $29 million. In 2005, a group of female stockbrokers sued Smith Barney and won $33 million. In 2010, Charlotte Hanna, a former vice president, sued Goldman Sachs for motherhood discrimination, arguing they fired her after she asked to work part-time. The case was settled out of court. The list of similar cases goes on.
A 2014 global survey of 5,000 women in the financial services industry revealed the depressing truth: Not much has changed. A full 88 percent of respondents in the United States said gender discrimination is pervasive and nearly 90 percent say they believe they are paid less than men. And 59 percent of American respondents said they do not see it changing any time soon.190
After the 2008 Great Recession, women were laid off at a faster rate than men in the financial services industry and hired back more slowly.191 Today, women in the top ranks are sparse. Women make up 54 percent of the financial services industry, but only 16 percent of senior executives and 0 percent of the CEOs. Only 13 percent of Goldman Sachs senior management team are women. JPMorgan has 17 percent and Bank of America boasts a full 36 percent, which is good compared to its competitors, but not great.192 Here’s the irony: Recent research193 has shown that women are better investors. Female analysts’ recommendations demonstrated a better rate of return when risk was taken into consideration. Female investors tend to be more risk averse and to deliver better long-term results.
According to Jay Newton-Small, author of Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works, “In the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis, a panel of high-powered bankers gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and debated whether, if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters, the investment giant would still have failed. In the end, they agreed, Lehman Sisters would’ve made much less money during boom times but would probably still be around today.” Proving yet again why we need women in the workplace.
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