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Wall Street in its Sixth Decade of Ogling, Groping Women

Spend a few hours in II’s archives, and the story cycle is obvious: An alarming report on women in finance, followed by a declaration of victory several years later, followed by reports of a drunken finance bro mounting the “Fearless Girl” statue.

  • Alicia McElhaney

When State Street’s “Fearless Girl” statue — a proud totem to gender equality — claimed her ground just steps from Wall Street’s “Charging Bull,” it felt like a long-sexist industry had finally noticed it had a problem.

But days after the statue went up, a drunken finance bro humped her in front of a crowd, the New York Post reported. The stark imagery reminded many women that finance’s days of sexism are far from finished.

Dedicated Institutional Investor readers may have a sense of déjà vu. After all, we covered the status of women on Wall Street back in the May 1972 issue and again in July 1996. It’s gotten a little better: Crowds of traders no longer pour onto the streets to ogle a woman’s breasts. This actually happened back in 1968, when Chemical Bank secretary Francine Gottfried and her legendary “43-inch bustline” drew crowds in the thousands, Linda Francke reported for the ’72 piece.

Women were indeed an oddity on the Street. In 1967, Muriel Siebert was the first to integrate the New York Stock Exchange — which, having had no ladies, also apparently had no ladies’ rooms.

But two decades later, II declared Wall Street research departments “veritable meritocracies” and “unparalleled paradise” for women. But that paradise was short lived, the 1996 July issue counters. Many of the women who had poured into research roles just as quickly drained out in the ’90s once they began having children, the author of “Can Wall Street Women Have it All?” declared.

Childcare and parental leave remain scant in benefits packages, and that old barrier stands between many women and executive roles in their careers. Women represent 13 percent of CEOs and 19 percent of CIOs at alternative investment funds, a KPMG srvey found. Those figures will strike many investors as high.

Since our initial stories on the state of women on Wall Street, the industry’s gender inequities have pushed into view, from pioneering women’s private crises of nowhere to pee, to the 2016 film Equity, which dramatized the struggle to climb the male-dominated finance ladder.

Advocates have become industry celebrities, like Sallie Krawcheck, the former Citigroup executive who launched the women-centered investing platform Ellevest in 2014. She has since raised $32.5 million from venture capital and individual investors.

And yet, for this progress, there’s little doubt that we will publish yet another missive on the status of the women of Wall Street. It’s only a matter of time.