When Women Are Oppressed, It’s a Tradition.” – Letty Cottin Pogrebin Bank of America will pay $39 million dollars to settle claims of discrimination against women (again) in its investment advice division.
The financial industry is so dominated by middle-aged white men that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms included a requirement that firms improve their gender and racial diversity. Unfortunately, as the chart below demonstrates, the percentage of women working on Wall Street has actually fallen between 2000 and 2009.
This isn’t the first time women have run up against obstacles erected by the Merrill Lynch/Bank of America behemoth. In 1998, a group of 900 female employees brought a discrimination suit against the company, which settled by promising to examine its practices and implement “diversity initiatives.” Unfortunately, the firm has repeatedly “penalized female Financial Advisors financially for not being chosen for those advantages they [the firm] created,” according to Plaintiff’s attorney Kelly M. Dermody. Women trainees were urged to read and follow a book of advice called Seducing the Boys’ Club: Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top. Here’s one of their tips for women: “Unless he is morbidly obese, there is no man on earth who won’t puff up at this sentence: Wow, you look great. Been working out?” Women were also pressured to go to events specifically “for them,” i.e. centered around themes like “dressing for success” and “preparing healthy meals while working full-time.” And still, no admission of wrongdoing from either Merrill or BoA.