This is not to imply that women don’t get fighting mad — and it is not to minimize the obstacles. “For almost fifty years, I’ve been fighting, dodging and trying to derail the deeply ingrained misogyny of the financial community,” writes Siebert. She believes this will change if women who get to the top mentor and in other ways assist their female colleagues, although she points to a catch-22 similar to the one she faced with Morgan Guaranty and the stock exchange: Women first have to get to the top.
In finance, Siebert argues, there is the unique problem of “the golden muzzle”: high compensation that makes being a token woman attractive. “The real issue,” she writes, hitting the nail on the head, “is being able to have meaningful, decision-making roles.” Women, she says — and members of all underrepresented groups, for that matter — shouldn’t become isolated or turn their backs on each other. Lacking access to the informal networks that men use for bonding and for communicating inside-track information, they need to establish their own. That way lies strength. That way lies the future.
Mary Lawrence is more ambivalent. She would see that 6.2 percent statistic as the result of women either thinking small and limiting their ambitions or being repulsed by the “infernal loneliness” of life at the top. The former gets her particularly steamed: “I read with disappointment that polls report 60 percent or more of … women in America prefer not to work outside the home…. So now I’m worrying that women are born with bound feet in their brains. Was it Freud who said biology is destiny? I think young women who choose a smaller life are making a mistake. I believe that whether you are a woman or a man you are supposed to stretch everything that you are, you are supposed to love with all your might, you are supposed to have a big life.” Amen. And good luck.
Reading Lawrence, one almost believes it’s as simple as wanting to stretch and then going out and doing it. Lawrence always did have, as Bill Bernbach, her boss at Doyle Dane Bernbach, said, “a marvelous ability to talk anyone into anything.”
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Kate Jennings, [email protected], is the author of Moral Hazard: A Novel (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins, 2002), which is based on her experiences as a speech writer on Wall Street in the 1990s. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel Snake (Back Bay Books, 1999). She has written for The New York Times and other leading publications.