|Don’t Be That Guy
By Jim Toes
As the youngest of seven siblings many of the life lessons my father passed on to me were delivered at opportune moments in short, succinct sentences. In other words, by the time I came along my father had “Basic Parenting 101” down. Yesterday, I was reminded of a conversation that took place in the car as my father drove me to a Saturday morning sports practice in my senior year of high school. “I know when guys get into a locker room, they shoot their mouths off about girls and what they did and didn’t do. Don’t be that guy.” That was it. Sage advice, delivered only once in a highly effective manner so as to be recalled now 31 years later after reading Sam Polk’s article “How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down” in the New York Times. Mr. Polk’s article not only caused me to recall my father’s words, but it reminded me of those times when I found myself in Wall Street’s version of a locker room with male colleagues objectifying female colleagues with crude and vulgar language. Like Mr. Polk, the number of times I stood silent or even participated outnumbered the times I stood up to the sexist behavior. So I cannot claim to be the hero here. However, I can say unequivocally that the vast majority of time after such experiences, feelings of guilt and disappointment in my behavior followed. Additionally, participating in the behavior never improved my standing with a manager whom I respected, nor did it create unbreakable bonds with peers or even endear me to those junior. It was from these experiences that my desire and courage to get it right the next time improved, and to a large degree I can say that I am not one of those guys today.
I disagree with some of Mr. Polk’s descriptions on how ingrained and systemic the objectivity of women is at Wall Street firms, but I applaud his article for raising awareness on an issue that needs to be addressed through the combined efforts of men and women. The harm brought to firms by objectifying women is real, and both men and women need to be engaged in the response. The STA Women in Finance initiative was founded on several guiding principles two of which are; that there has never been a better time to be a female working in the financial services industry and that action items should consider the male perspective and involvement where appropriate. STA WIF acknowledges that more needs to be done and we see the “promulgation of diversity committees and women’s leadership summits” as described by Mr. Polk as resources which provide hope that the future will be brighter for women and minorities. These institutional-sized responses are sources of education on the value-add that diversity brings to organizations, and they provide training on recognizing and responding to sexism in the workplace. My wife ran equity sales-trading at a major investment bank in the 1990’s and we have three daughters. I share Mr. Polk’s feelings that it is scary raising daughters today, but I believe the opportunities they, and other women and minorities will have in financial services will be greater than the generations who have come before.