How can everything have changed and nothing change at all?
February 3, 2016 8:38 AM   Subscribe

A Colleague Drank My Breast Milk And Other Wall Street Tales I kept the conversation light. I shared a funny story about my first day on Wall Street, when I opened up a pizza box to find condoms instead of pepperoni slices. Unwrapped. I was “the new girl,” and the guys just wanted to see me blush. I did blush, and I lived. “It’s not that bad anymore,” I said with a laugh.

I...didn’t mention the “moo” sounds that traders made when I headed to the nurse’s office with a breast pump, or the colleague who on a dare drank a shot of the breast milk I had stored in the office fridge. I thought of the guy known for dropping Band-Aids on women’s desks when the trading floor was cold because he didn’t “want to be distracted,” and the many times I had heard a women share an idea at a meeting, only to see later that same idea credited to a man.

Why does this continue to happen? One explanation: arbitration clauses (previously on Mefi).

Like most employees on Wall Street, my young candidate had to sign a U4, an arbitration agreement that binds a worker to settle any job dispute with her employer in-house. Most people are so happy to have the job, they aren’t worried about the prospect of settling complaints in a conference room, usually with arbitrators chosen because they are friendly to the bank.

In a follow-up DealBook article, law professor Myriam Gilles at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law said: “This amounts to the whole-scale privatization of the justice system. Americans are actively being deprived of their rights.

And even if workplaces do manage to combat outright sexism, women still have to face an arguably more difficult hurdle: unconscious bias.

Half the scientists were given the application with a male name attached, and half were given the exact same application with a female name attached. Results found that the “female” applicants were rated significantly lower than the “males” in competence, hireability, and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student.

When scientists judged the female applicants more harshly, they did not use sexist reasoning to do so. Instead, they drew upon ostensibly sound reasons to justify why they would not want to hire her: she is not competent enough. Sexism is an ugly word, so many of us are only comfortable identifying it when explicitly misogynistic language or behavior is exhibited. But this shows that you do not need to use anti-women language or even harbor conscious anti-women beliefs to behave in ways that are effectively anti-women.

Practically, this fact makes it all the more easy for women to internalize unfair criticisms as valid. If your work is rejected for an obviously bad reason, such as “it’s because you’re a woman,” you can simply dismiss the one who rejected you as biased and therefore not worth taking seriously. But if someone tells you that you are less competent, it’s easy to accept as true.


And:

...this paper, "Marriage Structure and Resistance to the Gender Revolution in the Workplace," from researchers out of Harvard (that is like the Yale of universities, you guys!!!), NYU, and the University of Utah, which finds that it is nearly impossible for men in "traditional" marriages (i.e. men whose wives don't work) to treat women equally in the workplace.

...it’s the pervasive accumulation of these small acts that make a workplace feel overwhelmingly oppressive.

When Leaving Is the Only Option

Banking and law are not the only industries in which this phenomenon has been observed. Across fields in which pervasive sexism has been repeatedly documented—in venture capital, Hollywood, and tech—many women choose to leave top positions at industry behemoths to start their own companies, one of the only ways they feel that they can both control the mission of their work and the day-to-day climate and schedule that they operate in.

10 ways men can fight sexism
5 ways women can help women succeed in the workplace
Proven Strategies for Addressing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace
Combating and dealing with sexism in the workplace
Micro-affimations: small but powerful
posted by triggerfinger (41 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
 
Great post!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:09 AM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


> "the colleague who on a dare drank a shot of the breast milk I had stored in the office fridge."

What an ass. It wasn't his, it was clearly labelled, and it was someone else's lunch. A child's lunch. That fucker stole a kid's lunch.

Then again, in that industry, that fucker probably stole a lot of kid's lunches. And dinners.
posted by qcubed at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2016 [54 favorites]


What an ass. It wasn't his, it was clearly labelled, and it was someone else's lunch. A child's lunch. That fucker stole a kid's lunch.

There's an aspect of violation of bodily autonomy to it as well - it wasn't just someone else's milk, it was their breast milk.
posted by Dysk at 9:19 AM on February 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


I was going to say that for the years I was an admin in banking, I fortunately wasn't subjected to this kind of thing.

Then I realized - maybe the reason I didn't get targeted with any of this was precisely because I was an admin rather than trying to be an analyst or a banker. you know? I was behaving and staying in my place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:19 AM on February 3, 2016 [13 favorites]


What an ass. It wasn't his, it was clearly labelled, and it was someone else's lunch. A child's lunch. That fucker stole a kid's lunch.

On a possibly-related note, I have found a lot of dark comfort in reading about France in the late 1700s. There's a lot of vicarious catharsis in the French Revolution.
posted by sobell at 9:29 AM on February 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


What an ass. It wasn't his, it was clearly labelled, and it was someone else's lunch. A child's lunch. That fucker stole a kid's lunch.

Plus I now have an image in my mind of infants doing breast milk shooters.
posted by srboisvert at 9:29 AM on February 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Guys love Wall Street because it means they never have to move on from frat life.
posted by Lyme Drop at 9:35 AM on February 3, 2016 [15 favorites]


Ah, binding arbitration, the company scrip of legal representation.
posted by ckape at 9:42 AM on February 3, 2016 [20 favorites]


Is there any way in which Wall Street is not horrible?
posted by TedW at 9:43 AM on February 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't know, are you a politician in need of money?
posted by spacewrench at 9:55 AM on February 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Guys love Wall Street because it means they never have to move on from frat life.


One of the apartment buildings on the street, #63 Wall Street, has a second floor mezzanine area with a TV room, foosball table, and gaming area, and on a higher floor, a balcony with a communal barbecue grill.
posted by ocschwar at 10:05 AM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Actual thing that happened to me, a woman in a creative industry. I'm a project manager.

It's a client meeting, and our admin is out. That morning I'd been first in, and I made coffee, as per usual, because I was first in, and I drink coffee.

Mid-morning break, conference room is out of coffee. My co-worker who is an INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER and who builds complex UI systems FOR MONEY. A Director at my company. Holds up the empty carafe and looks at me.

"We're out of coffee."
"Okay."
"I don't know how to make coffee."
"Well, I believe in you."

And I went right back to doing my email on the break.

My other male coworker showed him how the Bunn-o-matic works. I didn't twitch a muscle in his direction to help.

I'm a PM. I am not a babysitter. I am not a secretary. I am not the coffee girl.

This is a guy I like. He's not a bad guy. But good freaking god.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:36 AM on February 3, 2016 [88 favorites]


Is there any way in which Wall Street is not horrible?

I work on Wall Street, am female, sit on a trading desk and it's usually not this horrible. Wall Street is not just bro-y Investment Bankers and traders. It's 500k other white collar employees who do everything from running mathematical models, to IT, to accountants, to marketing to HR. Some bits of the financial sector are significantly worse than others, and it's probably fair to say that most people don't encounter this culture in their day-to-day banking jobs.

Many of us do work to change the culture (to be more women, minority & LGBT friendly) from within, and many strides have been made. There's just so goddamn much more to do. Sigh.

ducks from any comments saying that I'm defending wall street culture. Damn it I'm not, because this shit is horrible and it sucks that any subset of people have to deal with it. I've encountered some level of this; but I'm loud and in people's faces and don't give a fuck and call it out, but not everyone can.
posted by larthegreat at 10:38 AM on February 3, 2016 [17 favorites]


Ah Wall Street. Stay classy you pathetic, money-grubbing manchildren.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:09 AM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


ckape: Ah, binding arbitration, the company scrip of legal representation.

I want to say that I just love this analogy. All my credit cards have binding arbitration clauses. Take it or leave it. So do a variety of other things I must use - no options.

Tell me, Mr. Anderson... what good are your legal rights... if you're forced into binding arbitration?
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yes, to reiterate, this isn't just about Wall Street, as terrible as some parts of it are. And it isn't just tech either. We live in a society where there is a gender pay gap even in female-dominated industries. This is a systemic issue. No one industry or group of people can wash their hands of it by saying "welp, I'm not one of those tech bros or Wall Street frat boys, so nothing for me to do." We're all a part of it, because it's a part of our actual culture.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:13 AM on February 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


Yeah, binding arbitration should be 100% banned across the board. You don't get to replace the legal system with a bullshit one that you hired. Not yours.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:34 AM on February 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


Also, don't forget the flip-the-table option of going to the media with tales of egregious sexual harassment.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:36 AM on February 3, 2016


Guys love Wall Street because it means they never have to move on from frat life.

Who could have foreseen a future so dark that the guys from Animal House would be running the economy, and the guys from 'please give me another, sir' would control the government?
posted by jamjam at 11:48 AM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mid-morning break, conference room is out of coffee. My co-worker who is an INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER and who builds complex UI systems FOR MONEY. A Director at my company. Holds up the empty carafe and looks at me.

Shit like this is why I refuse to volunteer to take notes at any meeting with mixed genders, why I refuse to ask if anyone wants anything to eat or drink, and why I refuse to be seen cleaning any common office areas.

It's a fine line, though. Even if/when you train the men in the office to realize you're not the help, you face backlash from the other women who are furious that you've opted out of the unspoken labor compact. It's the workplace equivalent of your aunt and female cousins getting worked up when you refuse to participate in the "traditional" Thanksgiving division of labor known as "women do everything while men sit on their asses."
posted by sobell at 12:45 PM on February 3, 2016 [35 favorites]


well done post. thanks.
posted by theora55 at 1:16 PM on February 3, 2016


Shit like this is why I refuse to volunteer to take notes at any meeting with mixed genders, why I refuse to ask if anyone wants anything to eat or drink, and why I refuse to be seen cleaning any common office areas.

One time I was in a meeting with management. I and the CEO were the only women. I was running the computer demo and looking after AV part of it so I couldn't take notes otherwise as the only non management person there it likely would have been made my job. CEO asks for someone to take notes.

*crickets*

She asks again. More crickets.

She asks one person directly, the guy who already has pen and paper and always takes copious amounts of notes every time you talk to him about anything and he flat out says "No I don't take minutes. I take notes for myself." Added bonus, the guy is her life partner.

Lots of daggers. So much tension.

CEO says I don't have time for this and takes notes.

That was a looooong couple of hours...
posted by Jalliah at 1:30 PM on February 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Who could have foreseen a future so dark that the guys from Animal House would be running the economy, and the guys from 'please give me another, sir' would control the government?

A reading of history suggests that this cohort, its analogues and proxies have been running the show pretty much forever.

I work on Wall Street, am female, sit on a trading desk and it's usually not this horrible.

I used to work on Wall Street; am female; routinely interacted at a high level with the trading desk as well as the investment bankers (I was a living 'chinese wall' of sorts); have worked in near-top-of-the-house jobs elsewhere in financial services; and can sadly report that, while not all women in any given environment have to put up with the same crap across the board, this sort of bad frat house brigade behavior is routine. Depending upon appearance, family or social connections to partners or the executive suite, personality and "balls" (and the willingness to use them), women get more, or less, of this nonsense dumped on them. My personality being what it is (and the amusing fact that most of them were a little afraid of me, for reasons that are not clear) (and, no, I had no conveniently located friends or relatives to provide a shield), I did not experience -- to my face -- the worst of it, but I do have some "good" stories to tell, which I'll save for another day.

Sadly, on a practical level, I do not see how this is likely to change, because, as so much in life, the current cohort in power benefits nicely from the status quo.
posted by cool breeze at 1:35 PM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Guys love Wall Street because it means they never have to move on from frat life.

Can confirm. It's not like it used to be, but it's a lot less PC than many, many parts of the USA.
posted by theorique at 1:42 PM on February 3, 2016


Shit like this is why I refuse to volunteer to take notes at any meeting with mixed genders, why I refuse to ask if anyone wants anything to eat or drink, and why I refuse to be seen cleaning any common office areas.

Yep! I'm an engineer. I'm a woman. I very intentionally do not know how to make coffee. (Since I'm a tea drinker this is no particular hardship) I've been able to leverage my coffee ignorance on more than one occasion.

My favorite was a job interview for a deputy project manager position at a defense contractor when I was asked if, in addition to my duties managing an engineering team, I'd be willing to take on some "light admin work" such as "booking travel." I replied, "only if I'm going on the trip." (The interviewers later told the guy who referred me I had been "arrogant." Spoiler: didn't take that job.)

I cannot imagine attempting to contain my rage if I found out some dudebro had drunk my expressed milk. Christ, what an asshole.
posted by olinerd at 2:09 PM on February 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I sometimes wonder if I have never tried to like coffee partly so I never have to make it. Because now I have the excuse that I don't know how. I could probably figure it out, of course, but I'm not going to.

I did successfully push back against the suggestion that I bring copies for other people to meetings I set up, when I have already sent them those documents digitally. If they can't be arsed to print out their own copy, it's their problem. I don't even print out a copy for myself, but bring my laptop (save trees!) and a scratch pad.

More than once, I have had to turn my laptop so that a guy who could not be bothered to bring any docs to the meeting could see what we were talking about.

The thing is, in a general way, I wouldn't mind printing out copies for people, to be hospitable. If it was a meeting of volunteers or something outside of work, I would do it.

But the office is not my house and I dare not act like a hostess in it because I don't want to send the wrong message.
posted by emjaybee at 2:09 PM on February 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yep! I'm an engineer. I'm a woman. I very intentionally do not know how to make coffee. (Since I'm a tea drinker this is no particular hardship) I've been able to leverage my coffee ignorance on more than one occasion.

Hey, me too! It's a surprisingly useful strategy. I have also semi-deliberately cultivated shitty fucking handwriting over the years so that I have leverage to argue back against dudes who try to encourage me to take notes.
posted by sciatrix at 2:13 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I grow increasingly confident in my assertion that anywhere the expression "team player" is used is not an organisation that contributes anything to the betterment of the world or of humankind. Case in point, Wall Street.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:15 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Who the fuck drinks coffee but doesn't know how to make it?

If your only experience of the beverage involves a barista, I cannot fathom what other entitlements are ingrained in your psyche.

posted by butterstick at 3:19 PM on February 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't know how to make it.

Then again, I am not a regular coffee drinker; I will have it with dessert at a swooby restaurant.

I could figure it out I'm sure.

I suppose I am entitled, but also an edge case in your comment.
posted by qcubed at 4:06 PM on February 3, 2016


#notallcoffeedrinkers
posted by rtha at 4:11 PM on February 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


Regarding the "coffee at work" situation: I've worked with various people (all male) who made kind of a thing about being particular about their coffee: thinking a lot about beans, glassware, method of brewing, and that sort of thing. When they made a cup of coffee in the office, it was like an event. No one ever expected them to brew coffee for the team or "could you make me one as well" or that kind of thing. I don't know if it was a sex-role thing or just that everyone was so daunted by the 'artisanal'-ness of the whole process when they made their coffee.

Also, these methods tended to be labor-intensive, single cup - they didn't really lend themselves to "hey, sweetheart, could you put a pot on" type of requests.
posted by theorique at 5:34 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


> Who the fuck drinks coffee but doesn't know how to make it

Me. I make coffee at home every morning, but I don't know how to make it with whatever random coffee machine is in this office's staff kitchen. I once tried to make it at work (at a library, if I'd waited for a man to make it we would've had to go coffeeless until one was hired) and I flooded the break room.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:37 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fortunately every office I've worked in has had these Keurig-type things where everyone makes themselves their own coffee using these single-serve pod things you stick in a gizmo and it goes "fwsshhh" and pours coffee into your cup for you. A couple people have French Press things they use for their own selves, but it's their own selves.

I'm the only one who knows what to do when it says "pack bin full", but that's an entirely separate issue from sexism, I think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:28 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Coffee-making stories from someone else who doesn't drink it:

(a) One time I took a class in something--systemic processes, something like that?--where the teacher took a poll of who didn't drink coffee, which was about maybe 5 people in a room of 30. She then allotted us to different groups where we had to sit through everyone else telling us how to make coffee, because statistically she'd found that sort of thing worked for her class.
(b) I still don't remember a bit of how to make coffee, though my boss did show me how to work her Keurig once if I ever want to make hot chocolate in there. Like everyone else, I don't wanna because then people will keep making me do it, right?

(c) I used to work at a newspaper and the only two who didn't drink coffee were me and one other rather young guy a few years behind me. The guy used to be at work in the very early morning for some reason and sometimes he'd be in there at the same time as this la-di-da columnist we had. I never met the woman, but apparently she was quite hoity toity and one day there was no coffee and she yelled at the non-coffee-drinking guy to make her some. Yeah, I'm sure that worked out greeeeat.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:58 PM on February 3, 2016


Yeah, I drink coffee because my office has a machine that makes it where you put the cup in and select the beans and it chugs away and then coffee appears. On weekends I drink tea, which I make by putting a mug of water with a teabag in the microwave. Only time I encounter anything like a conventional coffee machine is when I'm staying in a hotel, and then there's always a helpful diagram.

My husband's coffee routine is so fussy it requires two different graduated cylinders. Ain't nobody got time for that.
posted by town of cats at 12:03 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


There was the young banker who was groped publicly to settle a bet about whether her breasts were real

The red mist descended when I read this... That seems like clear sexual assault. Couldn't she call the police?
posted by drunkonthemoon at 5:04 AM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Probably not if she still wanted to have a job after that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:36 AM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I mean, I think it's kind of silly to attach the act of drinking coffee with knowing how to make it. There are those Keurig machines which are apparently terrible but if I want coffee I could stick a thing into another thing and push a button and I have coffee that I don't drink. Or there are work machines that I press a button and then it makes gurgling noises and then I have to rush to find a cup to put underneath the spout to have coffee that I don't drink.

Or I could contribute to a local economy on the rare, once-in-a-very-long-while coffee drink and pay someone who is at a coffee shop to make what is supposed to be a good cup of coffee, except I don't know really what makes it good or not? It's coffee. It's brownish black bitter liquid that really is only good when paired with something sweet to counterbalance that sweetness.

But see, that's the whole thing about this coffee argument. It's not whether or not knowing how to make it is necessary, it's the expectation that someone whose job it isn't should--particularly because that assumption seems to fall on women to do all the household shit in the office, like replace the soap, or restock the paper towels, or order lunch, or whatever else because the men often don't seem to realize that that shit takes time. That shit isn't billable. It has to be done but apparently most of us are teenaged kids who expect mom to take care of us while we totally do REAL, IMPORTANT, WORLD-CHANGING THINGS like type on keyboards that contribute to some imaginary points somewhere for fun and profit.
posted by qcubed at 8:03 AM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


theorique, I have seen that exact same dynamic (men in offices making coffee as a single-cup artisanal process that implies zero "could you make some for everyone" openness) and never seen it through the lens you just offered. Thank you so much. Huh. And now I'm thinking about how women who took such care with their beverage preparation might more readily be dinged as picky divas...
posted by brainwane at 8:44 AM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Years ago I was on a board of a progressive organization that was fairly equal gender wise. Before our meetings someone would make coffee and tea and sometimes get some munchies out. It was pretty casual and people just naturally took turns. Over time we realized that it was on the women doing this. Long story short, all us women got together and decided to just stop. We didn't say anything or make a big deal we just collectively didn't do it anymore.

Took a week of no coffee and no women offering to make it when the meetings started with no coffee for the penny to drop with the some of the guys. Hey I think there is something going on here! Wait IS there something going on? We'd just smile and act oblivious. The message did get through and we ended up having a good and amiable discussion about it. And most importantly many of the guys did join into the casual rotation.
posted by Jalliah at 8:46 AM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


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