Friday, January 18, 2008

Careers: Women on Wall Street

My guest blogger JLB had a link to this NY Times article, "Wall Street's Women Face a Fork in the Road," from August 2006 that was an interesting read (although a bit long for my taste). It talks about women and Wall Street- some want to get back into the financial world after taking a break, some who are in it want to explore other opportunities mid-career, MBAs have reservations in working 80 hr weeks, and work-life balance has become an overall area focus in recent times.

Here are some highlights from the article:

WOMEN’S aversion to intersecting with Wall Street appears to be mounting: Generation Y, also dubbed the “Millennials,” say they value balance more than financial security, suggesting fewer will gravitate to the cutthroat environs of the Street. Bank executives say fewer female M.B.A.’s are choosing careers on the Street, and the banks also say they have had limited success stanching the flow of women who leave midcareer.
...current female undergraduate and graduate students at top universities express hope that Wall Street will be both a manageable place to work and a melting pot. But those two characteristics do not describe the reality behind the largely 24/7, white male environs of the world’s financial capital. “It’s not looking that great for the investment banks if you think that the new generation is interested in social responsibility, high ethical standards and work-life balance...
Investment banks and brokerage firms typically lose women when they are in their 30’s, executives say. Expected to ramp up to reach coveted managing director jobs, many women feel that midlevel jobs offer them little while demanding a lot. Pulled to have children and pushed by a less-than-rewarding workplace and often uninspired midlevel management, they leave.

Generation Y cares less about money if it comes at too high a price, throwing a wrench into Wall Street’s past assurance that it could demand cultlike devotion from employees in return for fatter paychecks than any other profession.


“It’s hard to work for four years, go to business school, spend three years slaving away in an investment bank or consulting firm and then try to leave to start a family,” said Thomas Caleel, director of admissions and financial aid at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “They haven’t achieved the seniority they need at that point.”

Women are not the only ones seeking balance, either. Students and executives say that men — the bedrock of the Street’s work force —are also increasingly shunning 80-hour workweeks, even if they love and are devoted to banking careers.

I can't speak about being a woman on Wall Street, but I do know that many men and women in my generation are increasingly interested in having a fulfilling career that allows them to live more well-rounded lives.

Once we get to our late 20s-early 30s, living "a good life" becomes much more important. We begin to think about our future and what we want it to look like; we look at our lives and see the things that we have sacrificed so far, with the realization that the clock is ticking and 2 years can quickly turn to 10 if we're not intentional with our life choices.

Happiness, balance, relationships, health, etc. are more compelling than 80 hr workweeks or jobs that aren't a perfect match. As young, educated professionals, we believe that it's important to work, make money, and have a career, but it shouldn't come at the expense of living life.

There will always be people willing to accept intense careers and singularly-focused lives, but I think those overall numbers are dropping. The companies and industries that will succeed are those who can recognize this trend and respond accordingly.

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