Donna Brennan wanted a career on Wall Street. And she got
one, aggressively going after the technical knowledge and kind of
client base required to succeed.
But she says the price she paid was high. During her six
years in the securities industry, Ms. Brennan says she endured
insults, inappropriate behavior, and outright sexual harassment.
"It's a tough business," says Ms. Brennan. "For women, it can
While Americans have apparently decided to withhold judgment
on the Paula Jones sexual-harassment charges against President
Clinton, Wall Street has been forced to face the issue head on.
In the past two years, a series of high-profile sexual
harassment and discrimination cases have torn the veneer off the
securities industry. In the process, they have exposed a world that
is still predominantly white, male, and, according to allegations,
rife with discrimination. But the revelations have also prompted
industry leaders to act. They've committed to increasing the number
of women and minority brokers and backed a move to end the
mandatory arbitration of employment-discrimination practices. That
longtime practice leaves the resolution of such cases in the
industry's own hands. The changes could be more fundamental in the
securities industry than the impact of the New York Stock
Exchange's pending decision on whether to move its trading floor
for the first time since 1903.
"Wall Street serves America, but it doesn't yet look like
America," says Arthur Levitt, chairman of the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC). "A commitment to policies of inclusion
becomes more important as our population grows more diverse."
While major Wall Street firms have policies opposing
discrimination and harassment, many women in the industry say the
policies appeared on paper only. Just 11 percent of the half
million workers registered on Wall Street with the National
Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) are women. At the 10
top-grossing securities firms, five of the 58 top executives are
For years, many women fought to be treated equally, but
found themselves edged out or increasingly ignored. They hesitated
to report inappropriate behavior because Wall Street is a small,
close community, and they feared retaliation.
"If you complain, that could be it for your career," says
But during the past five years, more women have begun to
speak out. The number of gender discrimination cases reported to
the NASD has quadrupled. Then, in May 1996, 25 current and former
brokers at Smith Barney decided to bring the problem to court and
challenge the whole industry's insular, self-policing system.
The class-action suit was brought against Smith Barney, the
NASD, and the New York Stock Exchange. …