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Are Women Targeted in Wall Street Layoffs?

Are Wall Street women disappearing because of legitimate layoffs, or are they specifically targeted because they're outside the old boys' network, took maternity leave, pumped breast milk in the office, and complained about co-workers having sex in the workplace?

Four former Citigroup managers are the latest women to file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but Forbes has interviewed women at three other investment banks who say companies are using the recession as an excuse to discriminate. "[S]imilar claims by women who insist they were unfairly fired have been piling up recently at Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and Bank of Tokyo," writes the magazine's Anita Raghavan.

If the claims have any merit, the mostly male club that gave rise to explosive sex discrimination lawsuits a dozen years ago against Citigroup's Smith Barney brokerage unit is back at work. This time the offenses are not the boorish behavior and outright harassment that gave rise to a total $400 million in industry settlements but something more subtle: making women bear a disproportionate share of the layoffs.

Forbes estimates 72 percent of workers laid off from financial services and insurance firms are women, and that women made up 64 percent of overall industry employment before the crash.

In the Citi case, the company had 46 male directors and five female directors in its Public Finance Department. The company laid off four of the women and five of the men. Three of the four women have asked the EEOC for permission to sue as class representatives. Says Lisa Conley, a former Director in the Health Care Group: "By basing its decision on personal relationships rather than performance, Citi has effectively eliminated a whole generation of future Managing Directors within the Public Finance Department."

Citi Spokesperson Danielle Romero-Apsilos counters the company didn't discriminate when it made the layoffs, and that "(m)any of the factual allegations from these former employees are either inaccurate or incomplete..." She says, "Citigroup and the Municipal Securities Division are disciplined, focused, consistent and vigilant in regard to our diversity-related efforts and we are proud of these efforts and of the progress we have made."

AUTHORDona DeZube Insider Comment
  • ki
    17 April 2009

    Women and those over 40 are OF COURSE targets in this current environment. The opinion of 'Joe Bystander' above reflects the mindset of some native-born managers, and for some foreign-born managers, that women shouldn't be working at all for anything (except pocket money) certainly not have a career. It is infuriating to those women who have been working in technical fields all these years, while raising children or not, competing, thriving, succeeding, without too much discrimination at all, to be faced with this kind of crap, but there it is. And to Claudia, above...wait till you are 40+, have even better skills then you have now, and suddenly get laid off, and replaced by a 20-something that has less then half your skill, but doesn't cost more than half your salary. Passion & competiveness suffer when not rewarded. It is not all about profits, it's about power. The real power these days is with the outsourced teams that are both incompetent AND cheaper...

  • Wi
    27 March 2009

    Since these knuckle draggers are so proud of their maleness, perhaps they would care to for the real rough and tumble. Send them to a max. security prison. I'm sure most will enjoy being really tough. These folks aren't really tough, they are candy-asses dressed up and taught to talk it. I've worked in the real tough world for years. Nothing is more boring than pounding the #$%& out of a tough talking wimp in a suit. Get a life boys and grow up.

  • Mo
    9 March 2009

    I work for a well established UK financial company here in US. This year my bonus was not alligned with the rest of my team (I am the only woman on the team). I am frustrated and humilated as I had a non existing explanation from the HR dept as well on how my bonus was determined. I believe that women are the tmajor arget in this big lay off season. My company,during the big downsize, has left home few women who were already on maternity leave. it's still A "MAN" world out there.

  • wo
    woman quant
    8 March 2009

    Why bother engaging with this discussion? Weather male or female, those ultra competitive types have proven themselves to be incompetants who were responsible for making bad decisions that lead to massive losses for the banks. Whoever they are, get them out of financial services.

  • Cl
    6 March 2009

    I don't know that women lack "passion" or "enthusiasm" - either generally in life, or more specifically, vis-a-vis their careers (in i-banking). The contrary seems more to hold truth...

    Perhaps women aren't inherently inclined to deal with "stress under pressure" and the "rough & tumble" day in the life of a trader but i'd imthey certainly do so with passion (emotion - right?) and enthusiasm (temper?) of the reason i tend to get along better with males than females (limited tolerance for undue drama, esp in the workplace).

    Then again, i'm probably in the minority. I tend to thrive under pressure, am competitive (but not in a duplicitous sort of way) and think the industry is far more exciting (stressful) than most.

    I'm a 31 y-o female who's worked on trading desks at utilities, investment banks and now an exchange for a decade now, and am just hitting the first "trimester" of my career. Don't foresee being ousted or throwing in the towel anytime soon.

    Overall, i agree that perhaps the majority of females aren't suited for transactional jobs but that leaves more opportunity for the rest of us, even if we have to jump thru political hoops to prove it (sigh

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