Opinion: Why Wall Street’s discrimination against women has no future – Lotte Bailyn

MIT Sloan Professor Emerita Lotte Bailyn

MIT Sloan Professor Emerita Lotte Bailyn

From Market Watch

We are well-accustomed by now to the ways in which women are mistreated and discriminated against on Wall Street.

Over the past decade, nearly every major bank — from Goldman Sachs GS to Morgan Stanley MS, Citigroup C— has settled a sex discrimination suit. News reports have exposed in lurid detail just how badly women are underpaid; the degree to which they face hostility from their male peers; and how they are subjected to a demeaning environment and made to feel inferior.

The latest gender bias suit, filed by Megan Messina, a senior fixed-income banker, is against Bank of America. The suit accuses BofA of vastly underpaying her and other women. In addition, Messina said her boss made her feel unwelcome in his “’bro’s club’,” and subjected her to questions like, “Have your eyes always been that blue?” The suit also accuses the bank of misconduct, and describes alleged instances of front-running trades and withholding information from clients.

Putting aside the alleged wrongdoing of bankers, this case is yet another cautionary tale for business leaders in the financial services industry and beyond. Managers must take steps to ensure that women are paid equally and that degrading behavior isn’t tolerated.

But how do you fix such a deep-seated problem? Unfortunately, most research shows that unconscious bias training doesn’t substantially help matters — and worse, some studies suggest that making people aware of hidden prejudices can backfire, causing them to discriminate more rather than less.

Yet we can’t give up. A culture shift is needed and employee education is a key component to changing people’s behaviors. In an age of political correctness gone too far, many employees labor under the notion that women are overly quick to call out sexism. “What’s the big deal?” they wonder. “I just complimented my female colleague on her hair/eyes/blouse. Why is that offensive?”

Read the full post at Market Watch

Lotte Bailyn is the T Wilson (1953) Professor of Management, Emerita at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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