In the latest news of women being punished for exceeding expectations, Goldman Sachs is being sued by three of its former employees. It’s been a rough summer for the bank, which was lucky enough to gain footing after the recession but stumbled in a summer SEC lawsuit and paid $550 million to settle fraud charges.
Three Women Make A Case
But according to The New York Times, it’s been rough for female employees, as well. Accusations of discrimination are being presented by a former managing director, vice president, and associate, who cite offenses from work celebrations held at strip clubs to hallway molestations. The women bristled at the fact that they were paid less than their male peers (say it with us: 75 cents to the dollar) and that their efforts to level the playing field led to exclusion and marginalization.
Claims Refuted By Many
Of course, there is a strong base of people who cry foul. The Goldman spokesman claims the suit is “without merit,” and perhaps more surprisingly, Janet Hanson—the founder of professional women’s organization 85 Broads and a former Goldman executive—has spoken on the bank’s behalf, insisting that for every disgruntled female employee, there are “a thousand who don’t feel that way.”
The Corporate Mold Is Unyielding
While the case is interesting (scantily-clad escorts wearing Santa hats at an office party?), it’s certainly not surprising. Large investment banks practically coined the term “boy’s club,” and tend to be fortresses of tradition, miscommunication, and misguided efforts to shape female employees into an already-existing mold. When Citibank created its list of behaviors for women to avoid in the workplace, it wasn’t the intent that made us flinch—we’re all for helping women become invaluable members of the workforce. The issue is the idea that the only road to business success is emulating male co-workers. Why does the workplace have to be about masculinity versus femininity, rather than person versus person?
Will One Settlement Make A Difference?
As far as a meritocratic ideal, Wall Street might not be the place to look. Big business, for that matter, might not be the best place to look. For all of the faux-encouraging statistics about young women earning more than men and a lessening gap in average salary between men and women, addressing the inequity on a case-by-case basis seems futile. The Times reminds us that similar cases have surfaced at Morgan Stanley and Bank Of America Merrill Lynch, but neither earnest appeal changed the fact that only 15 of the Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs. Maybe the problem isn’t that we’re unaware of the disadvantage we give to corporate women, or that we don’t feel compassion for those who are alienated in the workplace, but that we’re too close to the issue—we’re operating on too small a scale.
Tell us in the comments: Does pressing charges for discrimination make a difference in the overall picture?