Marie Myung-Ok Lee is a former Goldman Sachs employee who currently teaches at Columbia University and writes for a slew of websites. The other day she wrote a piece for The Atlantic detailing her time at Goldman Sachs in the late 90s, and specifically the misogynistic, “frat” culture that was (and still is) prevalent at the firm. It sounds awesome. Here are a few highlights.
much sounds familiar to me in the gender discrimination case accusing Goldman of “hostility and marginalization” in equal pay and promotion. It cites an incident in 1997—my era—where one of the plaintiffs alleged she was sexually assaulted by a colleague after a Goldman-sponsored outing to a topless club—yes, topless club, yes, Goldman-sponsored.
Sexual assault = not good.
Going to a strip club for a company outing >>>>>>>>>> Going on a picnic or, worse yet, to some crap hotel ballroom for a corporate retreat and a motivational speaker who couldn’t quite make it as a magician, a stand up comic, or a teacher, but attempts to incorporate all three of his failed careers into your miserable day. True story, the life of a motivational speaker is infinitely sadder than that of a stripper.
In one Goldman office, in the memos announcing a new crop of incoming female associates, instead of the usual corporate headshot, some joker used different semi-nude pictures of Playboy playmates. It was clearly thought to be clever, instead of puerile and wrong, but when I made noise about it, I was chided by a coworker for being “humorless” and that I probably read Ms. Magazine (I did).
You know what sucks? Working in a humorless work environment. To be clear, putting Kathy and Dilbert cartoon strips on your desk does not count. In fact it makes said work environment even more devoid of humor.
I remember being in the elevator once when one of the male analysts, wearing his Yale jacket, bragged to a junior female about his old Eli days where the august Sterling Library was great for “sex in the stacks.”
Wearing an old letter jacket and bragging about the glory days? Alright, fine, that guy was a tool. No one cares about where you put your decrepit penis during the Carter administration, old man.
One of my attractive coworkers was constantly dogged by one of the analysts, a middle-aged man. First, the man seemed friendly, always hanging out in the office. Then they were having long talks. Finally, she confided to us, he would sit in her office and cry about the horrible state of his marriage, the implications of which made her uncomfortable enough to request he not spend so much time with her.
Most of the analysts were men used to getting what they wanted when they wanted and never having their own behavior questioned. Their secretaries (almost all middle-aged white women) were almost wifely in their devotion and were rewarded with huge bonuses at the end of the year, new fur coats and diamonds making the place look like a Gilded Age opera house.
Official Goldman Sachs memos also referred to these secretaries as “bottom bitches.”
Most of the big-name analysts treated us as interchangeable widgets, not learning our names, stomping into our offices while gobbling a sandwich, wordlessly handing us their garbage. Once, an analyst started flossing his teeth in my office and was affronted when I asked him to desist.
For being affronted, I was chastised for having poor social skills, the first black mark in my record (later removed when I challenged it—it actually said in its wording that I was not “submissive” enough).
At least he didn’t ask you to make the sandwich.
I was already on a kind of probation for breaking an unspoken but ironclad sartorial rule that it was verboten for editors and “above” (it was okay for the buniony secretaries) to wear sneakers in the building—as if wearing dress shoes to walk the mile or two that I did was an option. In fact, it was widely thought that it was a professional responsibility for women to wear heels, the higher the better. The most sartorially admired women wore tightly sheathed skirts and hobbled around on pencil-thin stilettos
I hope she was able to find a happy middle ground between stripper heels and Sketchers. I’m sure that was pretty difficult.
Even some of the more formidable women, who I thought at least because of their age if not their credentials would be exempt from these oddly retro gender rules, took to them enthusiastically.
Even more disturbing, in her own dignified way, she still joined the frat culture, laughing along when one of the retail analysts asked one of the few female analysts to shave her shapely legs with the new Gillette razor (and, this she did please the crowd, even zipping a credit card against her bare skin to demonstrate the lack of stubble when she was done).
A WOMAN IS PARTAKING IN THE SHENANIGANS! ALL OF THIS IS NOW JUSTIFIED!
I wonder if this is how the women of the TFM office view the mostly male staff?
(*Downs glass of scotch, angrily shouts the question at Hot Piece of TSM and Veronica Corningstone, who shake their heads nervously while fighting back tears*)