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Pink Ties: Trading on Wall Street Part II, Diversity and Gaslighting

Leading up to WU’s Career Panel on the 27th of September, we spoke to some ladies about what it's like to be a woman in different industries, at different stages of their careers. In this edition of Pink Tie, Hsin continues her conversation with Jade*, a newly-joined Trading Analyst at Goldman Sachs. They discuss the importance of diversity in the workplace, and the gaslighting that women often experience when first entering the finance industry.

* Not her actual name.

You mentioned that companies are realising that it's important to have more women for diversity of thought. What specific value-add do you think diversity has?

Firstly, a lot of men on the trading floor are White or Asian men so there really isn’t a lot of diversity. Banks are trying very hard to have people from different backgrounds, with different experiences, whether they are women, or international students, or LGBTQ+. Just having this diversity of experiences gives people different ways to think, and having that is important because it propels discussions in a greater number of directions. So I think that’s what companies are encouraging. Also, with having more diversity of thought and people, that encourages even more diversity because it encourages and makes people more comfortable to join. They see the importance of making it a welcome environment for diverse people. I think having that network of women that I talked about earlier has made it super easy to integrate. They've really taken the initiative to make sure I feel no different, and they've sat me down and said that you're going to feel this way but you shouldn't in any way.

Oh it’s so great that you have this support network with you.

Yeah it’s been amazing. I feel so fortunate.

I've raised the matter of being a woman because when I saw you last year, you mentioned a fellow intern who didn't get offered a full-time position at Goldman, who said that you were only offered one because you were a woman. So I wonder if you’ve had similar experiences and generally your thoughts on the whole engagement.

I feel that now that I'm in the industry it's very different. I feel that when you’re entering the finance industry there are lots of obstacles, in college and in internships, where people will doubt you.

For example, in college I was in a selective investing club and we always faced a lack of diversity in our membership, mainly because girls didn’t feel like they were welcome or were good enough to apply. I had a similar feeling of inferiority when I was applying, and really didn’t think there was any chance I would get in. We also had this issue that guys would tell girls that they only got jobs because they were women. Wall Street banks have diversity programmes specifically for women, to help women into certain positions, and to help them feel comfortable entering an industry that is usually male-dominated. These programmes usually happen before the general recruiting processes and do give women a slight leg up in applications. So there exists all these structures to help us, but at the same time it feels like it is hampering us because we have voices literally telling us to our faces that we’ve only got our jobs because of these initiatives, and that we’re not actually good enough, that if we were competing with guys we would not be good enough at all and they would get the jobs over us.

I’ve known so many women who’ve been told this. That the reason they got these jobs are because of these diversity initiatives. It's really hard not to take it to heart. It’s like the whole affirmative action discussion for colleges. It’s the same feeling of “do we deserve this?”. But I think more than anything it is important for a woman in finance to realise that that it is absolutely not true. If we were in the general pool of applicants it would be so difficult for us to get a job. We’re still underrepresented, so I think it is fine that we are given these opportunities earlier. We shouldn't feel like we are any less. There are reasons they have these initiatives. This sort of talk is a big issue and I don't see it going away to be honest, because people are very sensitive to these things, especially guys who feel like they should've gotten these opportunities. But it is important for us to keep our heads up high, and remember that we are good, and they'll see it once we’re on the job. It's all about getting there, and not about getting the opportunity, in my opinion.

That makes a lot of sense. I feel like one argument is that as women, even if the job selection process is more favourable to you in one sense, it's because employers understand that you’ve had to overcome many more hurdles than men have in the sense of overcoming systemic biases and ways of working that are not currently favouring women.

Exactly. You have these people that are doubting you -- that’s one thing. In internships, which are unfortunately quite competitive, you feel when these other people are constantly telling you that the only reason you’re going to get a return offer is because you are a woman. Then there’s also, as much as it is sad to say, this stereotypical bro-sy atmosphere in a lot of these places. There’s a very specific demographic that these places appeal to, or at least that these places used to appeal to. So this has obviously contributed to a kind of environment that we have to be willing to get used to. Thankfully, so far my job hasn't been like that but I know a lot of women who have had to adapt, or who have felt that they had to do certain things they didn't want to to stay in their jobs. So you’re right, there are systemic biases and hurdles that we have to get through. But if the work is something that we are passionate about and that we like, we shouldn't let these problems bother us.

Well, it sounds like you have a generally very supportive work environment, I’m really happy for you!

Yeah it's been great so far, it’s been really nice. Hopefully it doesn’t change soon.

Thank you so much for sharing, it's been really great talking to you!

No problem, thanks for having me!

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