Succeeding on Wall St., that bastion of sexism

WORKING WOMAN

November 23, 1992|By Carol Kleiman | Carol Kleiman,Knight-Ridder News ServiceChicago Tribune

Until 1967, women hit a gold-bullion wall -- stronger than a glass ceiling -- on Wall Street when they tried to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

It wasn't until Muriel F. Siebert broke through the barriers 25 years ago that women were let in the golden gates of wheeling and dealing.

Today, 48 more women have managed to buy seats on the Big Board, and Ms. Siebert owns and operates her own New York Stock Exchange member firm, Muriel Siebert & Co., a discount brokerage and underwriting business.

But it's obvious to both bulls and bears that although women get jobs in Wall Street firms, most cannot make that big move to the top.

"Wall Street is the last bastion of male supremacy," Ms. Siebert says in "Wall Street Women: Women in Power on Wall Street Today," by Anne B. Fisher (Knopf, $19.95). "It's still an old boy network."

As late as 1988, women held only 1 percent of Wall Street's top jobs. Those few openings are a result of deregulation, computer technology and a "mind-boggling array of new financial services and products," according to Ms. Fisher, formerly associate editor of Fortune magazine.

The problem becomes how to break into the old boy network. So we've gathered hints from women who have used a lot of resourcefulness to get ahead.

These are women who "weren't invited to the party," as Ms. Fisher describes the male-dominated stock market.

* Getting started: Many men, including those in charge of hiring and promotions on Wall Street, doubt that women can handle money. That's why it's important to attend a male-dominated Ivy League school for a degree in finance or an MBA.

While there, challenge professors who use sexist anecdotes to teach the secrets of making money from greed and fear. That will get you instant recognition. Then, make your move: Instead of starting a football pool, which the men do, start an investment club with your classmates.

Making money for your male colleagues is a sure way to get their attention, if not their respect. Work on your investments while your male classmates are networking on the golf course or drinking at all-male clubs.

* Getting a job: Go directly to New York. That's where the best financial jobs are, and, with all the discrimination you have to face, you don't have time to waste. When you get to the Big Apple, worm your way into Wall Street. Use your contacts: All the men you went to college with were hired before graduation and are already on the way up the golden career ladder. Use them as references. Make a big deal out of your previous investment "experience."

Take any job, even entry-level. Just get in the door.

* Getting confident: Muriel Siebert didn't go to college but said she had a degree in order to get her first job on Wall Street. She made a lot of money for her employers and later confessed her lie.

* Moving up the Wall Street ladder: This is where things get tough. You work harder and longer than anybody else because you have to. You handle the junk, including junk bonds. You are loyal: You weep openly when the head of your firm goes to jail.

Meanwhile, your male colleagues, who aren't as friendly to you as they were in the beginning, are promoted annually, which you are not, and are paid more. They play golf, go to every football game and learn from visits to the men's room what's going on at the company.

* Changing jobs: Now is the time to leave that firm and get a better job elsewhere. Bring some clients with you. Swear that you will learn to play golf and never mention ethics out loud. In your new job, you will have a prestigious title, enormous responsibility -- especially in public finance, the so-called "female ghetto" -- and about 70 percent of the salary and perks your male colleagues have.

* Making your next move: Leave your last firm and take a step upward at another firm. The men do it all the time. But this time, save every penny you earn. Work hard on building a following of devoted customers who know that they will make money with you and that you will not cheat them, will not do insider trading, play liar's poker or be a barbarian at the gate.

* Reaching the top: Graciously resign your job and buy your own seat on the stock exchange. Take everyone who's any good with you, the way men do. Do it with a smile. Make tons of money.

All this still does not get you into the old boy network. But with all the big bucks you make, buy your own country club. Allow men to be affiliate members, with specific hours to tee off. It will tee them off that only women may play golf on the weekends. Let them form their own protest committees.

It will keep them busy while you are lining up their clients and making all that money on Wall Street.

And one thing more: Don't sell yourself short.

It's just a game

In 1982, Fresno, Calif.-based psychologist Lawrence Flores became the Parker Bros. of cultural diversity training by inventing the "MultiCultural Promotional Track Game."

The board game is part of the work Mr. Flores says he has done for such companies as Apple Computer Inc., Hughes Aircraft Co. and the Navy.

After an initial group discussion, players choose designations such as white female or black male. The purpose of the game, he says, is to illustrate how easy or difficult it is for one cultural group to advance over another.

The game stimulates open dialogue and gives players a chance to see through different eyes. After the game is played, the players break into like groups and discuss what they have learned.

Besides diversity training, Mr. Flores says his game can be used to open up such topics as sexual harassment, workplace ethics and corporate behavior.

The game and seminars, ranging in price from $1,700 to $2,500, are effective because "we learn by doing extremely well. We remember well what we have experience with," Mr. Flores says.

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