Feminism vs. Female Competing in Investment Banking

Published: 03rd July 2006
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Throughout history women have been considered inferior to men. Traditional functions of a female in the society were to stay home, cook, clean and raise children. Women were considered to be weak, had little to say, and were mistreated because of their self-esteem. Feminist in America has been characterized by a desire to renew the economic and political standings of women to a position of equality with men. Their basic argument was that women and men are equal in every aspect besides a few physical traits. The feminist movement took root in 1960's and today immense progress could be noted, in the job market, in the position females are obtaining. However in the sector of the Investment Banking the percent of women obtaining jobs is only 20% percent. What could it mean, prove of the existing glass ceiling or is it the competition amongst women that prevents acceleration in the corporate hierarchy. Based on the book by Nan Mooney "I Can't Believe She Did That! Why Women Betray Other Women at Work" and additional research and surveys, the women make up only 20% in the Investment Banking because of their competition amongst each other and current existence of the glass ceiling.

Women in corporate world now in the year 2006, by taking a historically predominant male job, female work force is in for a change, for it is difficult to stay up float in the environment where it is still a gentlemen's club, where you must be Crème Della Crème to be noticed and advance your career. Cultural biases, gender stereotypes and attitudes against women coupled with their not being viewed as primary income-earners are major obstacles for women's advancement. Moreover, the existence of informal male networks, sometimes referred to as "old boys' networks", also tends to exclude women from top jobs. Women find themselves trapped under the glass ceiling. Glass ceiling refers to the observation that top-level management in business consists predominantly, if not exclusively of a certain demographic. Individuals outside the dominant demographic group are evidently limited in how far they are able to advance inside the organization ranks.

Before we get into women working in Investment Banking facing hardships and competing amongst each other it is important to identify what exactly is Investment Banking. You've heard about the legendary long hours, the big bonuses, and the mega billion-dollar deals. You can recite the names of the big firms by heart. But what exactly is it, well Investment Banking Investment banking isn't one specific service or function. It is an umbrella term for a range of activities: underwriting, selling, and trading securities, providing financial advisory services, such as mergers and acquisition advice, and managing assets. Investment banks offer these services to companies, governments, nonprofit institutions, and individuals. And a struggle of women through out time to get recognition in this field has come a long way.

The feminist movement that took root in the 1960s embraced the concept of women as standing shoulder-to-shoulder in their effort to open new doors in male-dominated businesses. However, today, with the number of women in the labor force at record numbers, another question is being raised: In the workplace, are women sometimes their own worst enemies? In the book by journalist Nan Mooney "I Can't Believe She Did That! Why Women Betray Other Women at Work" explicates an issue of female integrity and work ethics amongst each other. In this book, author interviews hundreds of women to obtain their take on this problem of female competition. In her research she found that when females compete in the work force, whenever a conflict arises it becomes a silent predicament. In the research by Nan Mooney, she explicates the issue of female competition, the fact that they compete differently than men. According to Gallup Poll research indicated that more women would prefer to work with a male boss than another woman.

Hence the core of the issue of females getting jobs in the investment banking field is not only that it is a gentlemen's club, but that the fact that the less female competition there is it, the more you are noticed, the more you are on top of your game, and the more you could maneuver your way. Hence, how contradicting is this research, on one hand there is a feminist movement and on the other there is a vicious female competition. Gallup Poll indicated in their most recent research from 1982 on, that men have consistently been more accepting than women of female bosses. Research also has found that female leaders have a different leadership style that is often more effective than a man's in some areas. Female leaders scored higher than male leaders in persuasive motivation, assertiveness, and willingness to risk, empathy, flexibility and sociability, based on the research from Caliper, Princeton, N.J.-based consulting firm. This study included interviews with over 60 female leaders in top firms world wide, and what it showed was that female leaders have a more inclusive team building and problem solving leadership style. The issue of female support for each or lack-of-it is a critical issue today.

Why do women compete, and have a different approach to competition. One of the rational and concrete explanations is that there are fewer top positions for women, lets face it many industries and professions in business are still predominantly male. According to the Labor Department 14% of architects and engineers were women and 29% of doctors and surgeons were women in 2004. While women hold more than half of all management and professional positions, they make up less than 2% of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 CEOs, according to Catalyst. Ellen Kirk of Sunnyvale California, is marketing vice president at Tropos Networks, a provider of wireless broadband. But she says she used to work in investment banking, where she says the competition among women was fierce. "It was not what I'd call healthy. It was a lot of sniping," she says. "It took the form of backstabbing. They were publicly supportive, but they were insidiously, privately not supportive. It's behind the scenes. It's nasty things said behind closed doors."

Author of the book articulates that, "Women tend to compete but act like they're not competing." Hence they get a reputation for backstabbing. This could be explained by the nice syndrome, from the early childhood days girls are taught to be nice while boys are taught to approach competition aggressively and openly. Lois Wyse, co-founder and now chair of Cleveland-based Wyse Advertising, is the author of more than 60 books. As a pioneer who paved the way for other working women, she doesn't believe that women compete differently than men. But she does believe women today are more competitive with each other than they were in the 1960s and '70s, when the business world was dominated by men. "The women in business now aren't aware of the fact that women used to bring in coffee and not reports," Wyse says. "Because of that, they're more competitive instead of working together."

Competition is fierce between women in business; however, is it evident that women make up only 20% of the work force compared to men in Investment Banking. Investment Banking is demanding with long hours and challenging work, and balancing family and career could be a hard choice. In certain departments within the corporate hierarchy the hours are family friendly and part-time work is possible. However, Investment Banking continues to be the last stronghold of the "old boys club" in financial circles. Rita Theil, a Director in the Capital Markets Execution team at Citigroup is a prime example of how the glass ceiling can be cracked within Investment Banking. A mother of two young children, Theil is insistent that for women to succeed in Investment Banking, they must make some hard choices. Life is all about choices and when interviewing potential recruits, she makes it clear that becoming an analyst is a conscious decision to dedicate 110% to your work.

Theil suggests that if you want to start a family at the same time as being a first year analyst simply forget Investment Banking. And why would this be coming from a Director in the Capital Markets, because she knows to what extent the work is challenging, demanding, and requires you to finish the task, it's all about getting the work done. If it requires you to stay on the job 20 hours then you must.

Throughout her career, Rita Theil has witnessed the obstacles facing women in the Investment Banking environment but some definite advantages as well. "Being the only female often meant that I was given increased visibility and, therefore, responsibility. It allowed me to shine and to take on projects that even I doubted I was in a position to tackle. The trick was, I had excellent mentors. In order to rise to the top in Investment banking, everyone needs real sponsorship and mentoring."

What is mentoring at Citigroup? It is one of the measures taken to encourage female mobility in I-Banking. Mentor Initiative programs are programs where women are teamed up with a mentor to adjust to the demanding corporate day to day lifestyle, its functions, and ways to get on top through hard work and dedication. It is a program which embraces competition and teaches to work with it, for it is evident that women do compete ferocious amongst each other because of the fewer top positions available. There is still a long way to go, but efforts are made to attack the glass ceiling. The Mentor Initiative aims to ensure that the star performers get known as such and those with challenges find the help that they need, thereby making Citigroup's Investment Bank a place where women can have it all. As Theil says, "Why shouldn't we have it all? God knows, we've earned it!"

Women in the corporate world can they break the glass ceiling, and come up on top. Overall, only 2% of executive directors in the UK and USA are female. According to a study by the University of Essex when women are promoted their pay goes up by less than that of their male colleagues. However, the situation is slowly improving, with the number of women holding management positions in the UK and USA is rising from 9% in 1990 to 25% today.

An additional issue that arises in the corporate world is career vs. family. In the personal account of Megan Baesman a new analyst in training in Investment Banking firm (anonyms), during the Human Resources presentation on company perks and benefits, she noted a tangible and noteworthy difference between female and male maternity vs. paternity leave. Men are able to receive 1 week of paid paternity leave while females receive 12 weeks. Upon taking this job she understood that there would be imbalances between the policies that are applied to men and women in the firm, as well as the imbalances in the way they are treated. Hence the firm's maternity and paternity leave policies happened to be one of the first tangible imbalances which she encountered.

During the analyst training practice Megan Baesman along with fellow trainees were addressed by firms VP's, who tackled everything from the changes in the firms logo to the evolution of the firm culture. And when it was time for the Q&A, Megan Baesman addressed the VP's with a question "Some of the analysts and I were crunching some numbers this morning. We discovered that our investment banking class is only 18% women, a ratio of more than 4 to 1. Do you see this as a problem in terms of the evolution of firm culture in the future? If so, what is being done about it and what can we, as new hires, do about it?" This question faltered the executives; however their reply indicated that there were vast improvements of the entering females into job pool over the 20 years range. Statistics drawn indicate that the ratio of women entering into Investment Banking jobs is far less that ratio or men. However it is important to note that compared to the female entering I-banking job force 20 years ago figures show improvement and progress on the way of breaking the glass ceiling.

The men at the top haven't figured out what to do about gender equality issues in the workplace. There aren't many feminists among the ranks of the bankers today one of the reasons is that it is very competitive for the females that are already in the field. Our generation has the chance to work to change old policies and old cultural practices. The end goal should be to make investment banks better places to work for and do business with for men and women alike. Feminism and investment banking might seem like an unlikely pair, but it is a pairing that is long overdue. With creating of Mentoring Groups for women, they will be able to crack the glass ceiling and obtain equality in the I-Banking career. For more visit http://www.managementthatworks.com

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