Saturday, July 17, 2004

Morgan Stanley and Women

Morgan Stanley, a well-known Wall Street firm, has just settled a sex discrimination lawsuit out of court. Morgan Stanley will pay 54 million dollars to 340 women that are or have been employed by the firm, and it has also promised to start diversity training and to scrutinize the promotion rates of female brokers.

Settling out of court was a good idea from Morgan Stanley's point of view. After all, fewer people will then hear about stuff like:

The federal agency also was set to present evidence about visits to strip clubs and how female employees and clients were excluded from golf outings such as the one at the Doral Golf resort until 1999. Trial attorneys from the federal agency were also prepared to show other ways in which the atmosphere at the company was biased against women.

For instance, the federal agency contended in pre-trial papers that written guidelines for promotions and compensation decisions were absent or inadequate and Morgan Stanley's process for investigating claims of sex discrimination or harassment was inconsistent and poorly documented.

Even worse, the federal agency stated in court documents, women at Morgan Stanley were subjected to "offensive comments, banter, jokes" and frequent use of derogatory terms such as "bitch." Male employees also questioned the presence or commitment of pregnant women or mothers to their jobs.

Indeed, the federal agency alleged that Morgan Stanley engaged in a "pattern or practice of discrimination" against women in its institutional equities unit in regard to pay, promotion and other opportunities.

I have heard similar stories from women who work in the securities industry, especially frequent references to 'bitches' and equally frequent denouncements of working mothers. So Morgan Stanley is probably not alone in creating a hostile environment for women brokers. Maybe this is partly why the percentage of women in the security industry's workforce has dropped from 43% to 37% since 2001?

There are other reasons why women might leave the industry, too. In fact, reasons good enough for any sane person to do so. Like the assumption that you are working too little if you happened to go home so early one day that your child was still awake. Of course, what the securities industry would like is a world where working robots come in to work for twenty hours per day, while homemaking robots keep everything else smoothly running in the working robot's life. Too bad that they still have to use human beings.