Melissa S. Fisher: How Women Rose and Took the Fall on Wall Street

tags: economic history, Bloomberg News, women, Wall Street, Melissa S. Fisher



Melissa S. Fisher, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, is the author of “Wall Street Women.”

When Ina Drew resigned as JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)’s chief investment officer last year after reports the bank lost more than $6 billion, the New York Times referred to her as “the woman who took the fall.”

It is up for debate whether financial companies have scapegoated women such as Drew in the aftermath of the financial crisis. What is certain is that just half a century ago it was unimaginable that women might make it high enough in the ranks of Wall Street to take the fall for anything.

Women weren’t entirely invisible. As a 1958 article in the New York Times pointed out, physically, women “play a part in the sense that each weekday the Street’s stone and concrete canyons echo to the click-clack of approximately 60,000 high-heels as secretaries, stenos, bookkeepers, receptionists, ticker operators, file clerks, messengers and pages pour out of subways and into offices.”

But those offices made most women less visible; they had to work not only in these subordinate positions but well behind the scenes. They were on call for powerful men. In the women’s bathroom of at least one company, there were light bulbs labeled with partners’ names. When a partner phoned a secretary from his desk, the corresponding light would go on, and the woman was expected to run out immediately to attend to him....




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