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Women, Risk, and the Wrong Side of Wall Street’s Glass Ceiling

JUN 6, 2012 9:23am ET
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Take a look at c-suites across the financial services industry and you will see a noteworthy decline in the number of women occupying the most powerful offices in America's banking industry. Examine their regulators and you will see a comparable decline in women with oversight responsibility for the industry as well.
 
Sallie Krawcheck offered “Four Ways to Fix Banking” via June’s Harvard Business Review. Her name should ring a bell. Krawcheck has been one of the biggest names—and most powerful women—in banking for the last decade. She rose to prominence at Citi, then moved to Merrill Lynch, and earlier this year left Bank of America. She has joined the ranks of numerous women to exit their formal roles and take on more vocal positions. See Shelia Bair, former Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
 
The phenomenon is not just limited to these two, of course. Bank of America has also seen the recent departure of Barbara Desoer, who went through a few indicative shuffles prior to her “resig-tirement.” For example, in September 2011 she stopped reporting directly to CEO Brian Moynihan. The truth is that the entire industry, rank and file as well as c-suite executives, are increasingly male in an industry that was never underwhelming male to begin with. Since the early 2000s, the financial services industry has seen a 2.6% decline in women while the overall industry has grown nearly 10%, in terms of the numbers of those employed.
 
Research shows that women have borne the brunt of layoffs in the financial services industry since the recession began. Which, for most Americans, is most vividly represented by the fall of Lehman Brothers. And when things really got ugly at Lehman, who was the first high profile head to roll? Female CFO Erin Callan.
 
Why do women not succeed at the top of Wall Street? Well, research about small women-owned businesses could tell us a lot about the behavior of women in powerful corporate roles where the responsibilities are significant. Women business owners, overall, are far more risk-averse than their male counterparts. Financially, women will more likely choose to fund their businesses using their own capital and are less likely to seek outside capital than men.
 
Bland tendencies like that—betting her own money and never the entire farm—probably don't play well on the other side of Wall Street’s glass ceiling.

Cade Holleman is the executive director of the National Association of Women REO Brokerages.

Comments (1)
This was so informational! I really enjoyed reading this- where can I read more by this writer?
Posted by | Wednesday, June 06 2012 at 2:59PM ET
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