Posted by: *carrie* | March 27, 2010

What if Women Ran Wall Street?

New York Magazine recently ran an article titled What If Women Ran Wall Street? More on this momentarily.

I’ve recently finished reading both Why Women Should Rule the World & The Difference: Growing Up Female in America.

Added with some other recent readings, I’ve really started thinking about ‘female’ and ‘male’ characteristics. Which I think are primarily BS social constructs. But they’re part of our society, and as a society we highly value the characteristics we’ve labeled ‘masculine’, while we ridicule those we’ve labeled ‘feminine’.

We also nurture specific characteristics in children based on their gender. In The Difference, author Judy Mann discusses the fact that babies are treated differently. BABIES! Little girls are typically held facing in, are likely to be talked to more, and told they are ‘cute’, ‘pretty’, and other terms associated with their looks. Little boys are typically held facing out and are more often told things like “you’re a tough little guy”. Girls? Told they will grow up to be pretty. Boys? Told they could grow up to be President.

Moving on to school age: Girls? Rewarded for being calm, quiet, deferential, waiting their turn, cooperative. Boys? Rewarded for being competitive, energetic, assertive, and independent.

So women may very well be more cooperative and willing to admit they could be wrong. They may take less risks. Men may have a harder time admitting they’re wrong or even asking for directions. They may take more risks.

Our biologies are different. In ways I continue to view as actually rather insignificant. (I will be reading Pink Brain, Blue Brain once I parse my current reading a bit more. So more on this in coming weeks, I’m sure).

There is not a woman in America who doesn’t know that if she speaks her mind, she will eventually be called a bitch. There are very, very different expectations for women than there are for men.

So, back to the article in question. What if women ran Wall Street? According the article, while women are a much smaller minority of traders, they have a 25% success rate. The men? 2%. (If I ran a trading company, I’d be hiring all kinds of women). The article also mentions that it was easy to train the women when to be aggressive, so they apparently didn’t have problems being assertive once it was an acceptable part of their position.

The article opens by discussing that the women displayed far fewer emotions than the men. If this seems odd to you, it’s because society has conditioned us to believe that women are emotional creatures, completely unable to function aside from them (especially at that special time of the month that Commies are in the Funhouse). It’s because society has conditioned us to believe it’s not manly for men to display emotions. Ever.

Women would definitely balance Wall Street. And, as in any situation, a more diverse group is going to generate a wider range of options and likely have more success.

I don’t think I completely buy that it is so biologically driven. I think it’s driven by the fact that men are conditioned to behave in riskier, more aggressive ways. From the time they are BABIES. Wouldn’t it be great if we could start conditioning children to just be themselves? Because a variety of personality types is way more interesting than simply ‘boys’ & ‘girls’.



  1. I didn’t follow the link to New York Magazine, so the info I mention below might be redundant.

    But the record shows that women are indeed successful as traders (as your stats point out), and one of the better-known women traders is Abigail Pierrepont Johnson (born 1961). According to Wikipedia under the heading “Abigail Johnson,”, as of September 2009, Ms. Johnson had a personal net worth of at least $10 billion. I believe (but I haven’t verified it) that Abigail Johnson is still the designated successor to the CEO position at Fidelity Investments, which position is currently held by her father, Edward Johnson. And Abigail Johnson must certainly not be the only woman who has accrued a multibillion-dollar portfolio from trading on the market.

    Re: “… as in any situation, a more diverse group is going to … like have more success.”


    As for your discussion of nature-versus-nurture argument: Currently, arguments about ‘female’ versus ‘male’ biology and evolutionary psychology are all too frequently framed to justify current inequalities. Such arguments are neither convincing nor particularly informative.

    Re: “… men are conditioned to behave in riskier, more aggressive ways.”

    Even more precisely, men are institutionally REWARDED for behaving in riskier, more aggressive ways, in that the costs and losses accrued from male risk-taking are more likely to institutionally borne by a larger population (i.e., ‘privatize the profits, socialize the losses’) of both men and women.

    But, where risk-taking arises from, say consensual sex between men and women, the costs of such risk-taking (e.g., in unwanted pregnancies) are more frequently institutionally borne solely by the individual woman involved, in that men are less likely to be required to pay for their share of the risk through either privately or publicly paying for abortion or for child-rearing.

    Sorry if this comment was overlong. This was really an outstanding blogpost.

  2. This is a follow-up to my initial comment, after I have just finished reading the linked New York Magazine article.

    I note that that article and the experts cited do NOT frame the female-versus-male-biology argument as a way of justifying current inequalities.

    That having been noted, it’s still my opinion, FWIW, that the behavior of male traders is more influenced and REWARDED by multimillenial societal values than by neurobiology.

    But the neurobiological aspect is still extremely interesting.

    • I have recently become really interested in the study of male/female brain, primarily because I firmly believe that while some biological differences are to be expected, we are conditioned by society. I love what you said about men being REWARDED for being risk-takers while females are punished for it, in general, in the world.

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