Throughout life, I’ve been one of the few token women, if not the only woman, in the room for various things.
When I was 10, I placed in the top 10 of a math competition in my state. I recall being one of two girls in the top 10.
In high school, I represented my school in a quiz-bowl type activity. If memory serves, that had a 25 percent female ratio.
In college, one of my majors was computer science. I remember our first class had an even split between women and men. As I took the more difficult required courses for the major, I noticed that fewer and fewer women were in them. The last few courses I remember the split being 20 percent female and 80 percent male.
I never realized I was in the minority gender until the media began reporting on low STEM numbers for females. Suddenly a lightbulb switched on. Maybe it’s a mark of my ignorance that I managed to make it this far.
On the bright side, I’m really thankful to organizations like the Grace Hopper Conference (all female CS) who allowed me to attend on a scholarship, and the many finance organizations that had special women’s only events.
In high school, college, and real-life work I’ve dealt with unsavory characters. I’ve never said posted #metoo in public or actually anywhere, because in a male dominated field, you don’t want to come across as “whiny” or “hard to work with”, and I’m guessing that’s what would be said if I ever opened my mouth with a #MeToo. I’m only posting it here because this blog is anonymous. My solution? I’ve just learned to try and avoid the unsavory characters. Nothing good happens to those who speak out in the industry.
I applaud all the women who are able to speak out. You’ll notice that most of the ones who’ve initially come out in public with their names and faces attached to their stories are financially independent. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I, along with many of the females I’ve known who’ve worked in male oriented fields, don’t want to speak out with our names and faces attached.
Because when your livelihood is on the line, sometimes you just endure and deal with it the best you can. The power to change something is when you have FU money. Then you don’t have to put up with anything. There’s nothing to threaten you with.
Is that terrible? Yes. But what can you really do about it? Who wants to be the woman who speaks out and then is silenced because she can’t get a job or move up the ranks to break the glass ceiling for other women?
#MeToo Finally Hitting the Financial Sector
In 2016, I remember when Megan Messina’s story broke the news. She was co-head of structured products at BAML. Her male co-head was paid $5.5M while she was paid $2M and shut out of meetings with her boss, while even those below her got paid more. On page 16 of the public lawsuit she filed, you can see that even her underlings were paid more than her.
I’m happy that she broke the silence. We have to start somewhere, and it has to be at the top where women are not afraid to speak up because they’re more likely to have financial security. Because let’s face it, even if the lawsuit is true, there’s an incredibly high probability that moves like this are a career ender.
Oddly enough, a New Yorker piece written by a female reporter called Megan “power-hungry”. What do you do when your own gender labels you as such? I’ve never quite heard a male in finance called power-hungry. Only ambitious, hard-working, clever, etc. What do you do when your own gender is biased against you? How do you change that?
Sarah Tirschwell filed a complaint in early 2018, alleging that her boss made repeated advances towards her, and that when she made allegations of such to HR, TCW fired her 9 days later.
Just a few weeks ago, Lauren Bonner from Point72 filled a discrimination lawsuit as well. FYI, the billionaire investor in charge of Point72, Steven Cohen, walked away with no jail time and no personal fine either for his insider trading. The SEC has even allowed him to return to managing outside money after 2 years. He hit a snag when Bonner filed a lawsuit. If you watch Billions, rumors are that the show is based off of him.
A quote from the Barron’s article about Point 72: “The suit claims it was a “demeaning, abusive environment where men use the word `Pussy,’ openly declare that `no girls [are] allowed’ in meetings, and refuse to hire women because their `wives will not let them.'”
I don’t think #MeToo will disrupt finance or CS the way it has disrupted Hollywood in 2018. In finance, there are very few women who have managed to make it to the top — who can speak up publicly and not worry about their future. Women like Jennifer Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon, and Gwyneth Paltrow are all figures people are familiar with and can respond to. The names that pop up in industry lawsuits? They’re harder to rally with and don’t get as much publicity outside of people in the industry.
The scene has become more of a “don’t get into an elevator alone with a woman”, “don’t meet women in public for drinks alone”, etc, rather than attempting to equalize men and women. Which is quite unfair, because let’s face it, promotions come because you do a great job, but also because you LIKE the person. When you go out and have a beer and hang out, that’s when you bond.
So, what’s a woman to do? Try and reach financial independence and make it to the glass ceiling, and then take the leap to stand up for other women. Because you need someone at the top to pull other women through the pipeline.
My Story of Realizing Financial Independence is Possible
In college, I was a part of a group that learned how to invest, figure out the valuation of companies, read 10-K’s, etc. Oddly enough, I didn’t figure out my personal finances until I graduated. College is a mystical place, a world where you don’t quite need to know how to manage your personal finances. A meal plan is laid out for you, a dorm was provided, and there weren’t really that many other incidentals. It also helped I got enough financial aid and scholarships to attend for free.
Once I got out in the world, I cobbled together knowledge from bloggers and news outlets. Each little stepping stone led me to wonder why there wasn’t a free curriculum out there for personal finance and financial independence.
- Where were the free tools for it, the lessons, and the spreadsheets?
- Surely, it was possible to retire before 65?
- Why are there all these 40 and 50 year olds in finance who make buckets of money not retired or at least financially independent and helping out with a charity or something?
- Where do they spend it?
- Where were the required high school and college classes teaching you what a HSA was, how to access your 401k and IRA prior to retirement age without a penalty, or just the power of compound interest?
- Surely, that was more important than the physics, biology, world history, and chemistry courses that I had to sit through?
Perhaps it’s because the American culture frowns upon talking about money. No one ever asks what your salary, net worth, or how much you’ve saved in the past year.
So, it should come as even less of a surprise that when you search female “early retirement” bloggers in the directory for finance bloggers over at Rockstar Finance , you find that only 20 percent of them are women, and that there are less than 10 woman in their 20s who are actively blogging about financial independence. The submission of blogs is completely voluntary, so the question here should be: why are there not more women blogging about financial independence?
If you start trying to achieve financial independence in your 20s, you’ll probably make it before your 40s if you give it a concentrated effort. At that time, you’ll be at a high point in your career. You want to speak up then? Do it. But make sure you’re in a financially stable place before you do so.
In the spirit of International Woman’s Day, I’ve shared my story of coming to terms with financial independence.
In giving back to the female community that has helped me so much over the years, I’m sharing a share a free e-course that I created that will guide you towards becoming financially independent too. At 20,000+ words, it’s got everything you need to make a change in your life financially. Since I talk about one topic a day, it’s not too overwhelming, and I give you the exact spreadsheet you need to improve your finances and reach Financial independence. Feel free to share it with other women in your life.
Because the only way we move gender equality forward is when we have women who aren’t afraid to speak up. The only way we get that is if women have financial security and independence.