Goldman Sachs Doesn’t Want to Be Known as Misogynist ‘Vampire Squid’

On July 3, Goldman, Sachs & Co. submitted a 74-page memorandum of law and declarations of 27 Goldman Sachs witnesses to Judge James C. Francis of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and to three women who are suing the firm for gender discrimination.

So where are the documents?

The high-profile case of Cristina Chen-Oster et al. v. Goldman, Sachs & Co. et al. has been going on since Chen-Oster and two other former Goldman women sued in 2010. On July 1, the women’s lawyers filed a brief asking the court to certify them as a class. I wrote about the heavily redacted document in this story for TheStreet.

On July 3, Goldman filed its response. But 16 days later, it still is not on the court docket.

As it turns out, Goldman has been at work redacting that document over the past two weeks, and you can’t help but wonder what it is that the firm is so hellbent on keeping from the public. I raised that question in my latest column for TheStreet. You can read it here.

Goldman Sachs Women Say They Make Less Than Men Who Frequent Strip Clubs, Call Them ‘Bimbos’

Four years ago, a former Goldman Sachs & Co. executive and two of her former colleagues sued the firm, alleging sex discrimination and asking to be certified as a class.

Today, the women filed documents that added to an extensive dossier of allegations. Among the filings was a request that a judge in the Federal district court in Manhattan allow H. Christina Chen-Oster and her co-plaintiffs to proceed in their suit as a class representing a class of women who work — or worked — at the bank.

I wrote about the latest round of filings for TheStreet Foundation today. You can read my column here, but here are a few highlights:

There are the strip clubs. The guys who organize departmental golf games and don’t invite the women. The liberal use of the word “bimbo” to describe Goldman women, many of whom graduate from the same Ivy League schools the men do. And, of course, the very discouraging numbers about pay and promotion. But the biggest deal about Chen-Oster’s brief filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York court July 1 seeking class action status is the redactions. Because even when women and their lawyers fight bitter battles to get their hands on important documents that expose discrimination, companies always seem to find a way to keep the public from hearing about the worst stuff.

Brokerage firms put an immeasurable amount of energy into making sure the public never sees the real numbers on women, promotions, and compensation. And they get apoplectic  at the idea that the public might read allegations like that of former Goldman employee Shanna Orlich, who says she went to a holiday party in 2007 where a male managing director had hired women clad in “short black skirts, strapless tops, and Santa hats” to mingle with the Goldman men.

And yet, somehow, what started as a cluster of professional women at Goldman has mushroomed into a very important case.

Still, there’s much we don’t know.  Take a look at the latest filing and scroll through to see the thick black lines that keep you from hearing the whole story.

Not even the EEOC was allowed at this sex discrimination hearing

On Feb. 26, eight women who had sued Sterling Jewelers, Inc. were ushered into a private hearing room in midtown Manhattan with their lawyers, lawyers for Sterling, and an arbitrator. The door was shut behind them.

Like an increasing number of disputes between employees and employers, this one would be heard in a forum where the public and the press were forbidden.

I asked to attend the late February hearings on this sex discrimination case that could wind up including 44,000 women in 50 states, but the arbitrator declined my request. More important is that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – the agency in charge of enforcing federal civil rights laws – also asked, and also was declined. 

Joseph Sellers, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that the agency was told it could ask for a transcript, although no guarantee was made that it would receive one.

Sterling, based in Akron, Ohio, is parent of 12 jewelry chains in the U.S., including Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers.

The two sides presented their arguments for and against a motion to certify a class of women who’d worked in sales positions at Sterling since 2003. The women at the hearing, who would act as representatives of the class, say that Sterling discriminated against them in its pay and promotion policies.

The case, which I wrote about Saturday in The New York Times, includes examples of some of the worst sexual harassment allegations I’ve ever heard, and that includes the vulgar behavior I wrote about in my book “Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: The Landmark Legal Battles That Exposed Wall Street’s Shocking Culture of Sexual Harassment.”

Sterling says the allegations are “without merit.” Continue reading

Ten women, one man, get laid off. One of the women sues for bias, and (surprise) loses in court

Rochelle Cohen was fired from her job as a portfolio officer at Bank of New York Mellon on September 20, 2010. So were 9 other women. And one man.She sued the bank and went to trial in Federal Court in New York on July 23. After less than a day of deliberating, the jury ruled for the bank. Here’s my story about the case for The New York Times.

Kim O’Grady becomes “Mr. Kim O’Grady” and Gets the Job

I missed this one when I was off on vacation last week. A management consultant in Perth, Australia — Kim O’Grady — told the story of how perplexed he was back in the late 1990s when he shipped out his impressive resume to employer after employer, but received nothing but rejection letters.

So he studied his CV to see what might be putting people off. “A horrible truth slowly dawned on me,” he wrote. “My name.”

That is, potential employers were probably figuring that  ”Kim O’Grady” was a woman, not a man.

So he says he made a single change — “Kim O’Grady” became “Mr. Kim O’Grady” — and canvassed potential employers all over again. “I got an interview for the very next job I applied for,” he wrote. “And the one after that.”

(I’m awaiting a reply from Mr. O’Grady to understand why he’s revealing a story from the late 1990s all these years later.)

I wish I could say that things have changed in the two decades since Mr. O’Grady’s apparent epiphany. Academics at Yale University asked professors in the biology, chemistry and physics departments at six major universities to evaluate applications from recent graduates looking for jobs as lab managers, slapping the name “John” on half the applications and “Jennifer” on the other half. (There was no difference in the copy other than the first names.) “John” got an average score of 4 out of 7 for competence while “Jennifer” got only a 3.3.

Similarly, a female website developer who was having a tough time drumming up new business changed her name to “James Chartrand” and business picked up nicely. I wrote about that in a blog post on September 24.

There are no doubt neanderthals out there who consciously exclude a woman when they’re evaluating job applications, but the problem is more complicated than that. A New York Times story about the Yale study said that while scientists found bias to be pervasive, it “probably reflected subconscious cultural influences rather than overt or deliberate discrimination.”

Translation: Pay attention when you’re evaluating job applicants. You may not even be aware of what’s motivating you to proceed with some applicants, but to reject others.

How banks keep the lid on sex discrimination cases (and thus avoid having to change)

In my Bloomberg View column earlier this week, I wrote about the disconnect between image and reality when it comes to Deutsche Bank’s record on diversity. The Frankfurt-based global bank wins all those warm-and-fuzzy prizes for “Best Company” for working mothers, for example, but is the target of lawsuits brought by women who say are treated with nasty little barbs at work such as “Maybe I should get pregnant so I can work from home.”

Those same women say they endured more than Neanderthal-style comments from the guys: They say lost their jobs when they became mothers, too. Deutsche Bank dodged a bullet big-time when two women who were considering a class-action pregnancy discrimination suit settled with the bank earlier this year. In a court filing, the bank denied one of the pregnancy claims against it, and its spokeswoman Michele Allison declined to comment on the others.

Discrimination against women on Wall Street is a persistent problem that hasn’t been fixed despite an assortment of programs that purport to address it. Deutsche Bank, in fact, takes a deep bow for its programs around the world for women in finance. The bank says that 5,000 women from Deutsche and other firms attended their conferences for women last year alone.

Despite all the woman programs, diversity training and new “heads of diversity” jobs at financial firms, the lawsuits and internal investigations around gender discrimination just keep on coming.

Deutsche Bank is far from the only problematic bank out there — they all are. But  it does have some history that illustrates how hard financial firms work to keep the public from knowing how bad things are for their female employees. In a splashy lawsuit filed more than a decade ago, Virginia Gambale, a partner in Deutsche Bank’s Capital partners unit, said she was passed over for a promotion because of gender discrimination and that the bank’s work environment was hostile to women. She would wind up with a “multi-million dollar settlement,” according to a transcript of a court conference in her case.

Gambale’s lawsuit described a September 1999 business meeting she was required to attend in Cannes, France where approximately 100 men and 5 women had to walk past “a welcoming committee of ‘sex goddesses’ who were wearing revealing clothing that was highly inappropriate for a business meeting.” The complaint said that entertainment at the meeting included “a scantily clad Marilyn Monroe look-alike, who publicly fondled several male executives.”

The most interesting part of her lawsuit, though, were the lengths Deutsche Bank went to to avoid having information about the gender breakdown of salary and promotion at the bank become public. In an August 2, 2004 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the second circuit, Judge Robert D. Sack described some of the history around efforts by the bank to lock up documents.

During discovery, Deutsche Bank had produced compensation planning charts “and four pages of an internal Bank study of diversity at the Bank, which contained information about the gender composition of the Bank’s employees,” Sack wrote. The judge added that the bank had said the settlement was “motivated significantly by its desire to avoid public disclosure at trial of the temporarily sealed documents.”

Sack wrote that Harold Baer, the district judge in the case had “wondered aloud why the public should not know about discrimination at a major banking institution.” Baer told the bank that he’d disclose the contents of the settlement agreement unless Deutsche Bank agreed to hire a third party to do a global gender review and provide the results to the court. No way, said the bank, cooking up a stipulation of dismissal with Gambale to get the case out of Baer’s jurisdiction.

Over the years, I’ve spoken to a number of women who’ve taken settlements after years of emotional and expensive litigation. They get worn out, and often wind up feeling guilty that they didn’t fight to the bitter end in court so that the ugly details of gender differences in pay and promotion would be exposed. Those who can’t sue in court because of mandatory arbitration agreements don’t even get satisfaction when they win: Men who lose a discrimination or harassment case do not have to reveal that in their public “BrokerCheck” records. Is there any wonder the problems go on and on?

What we really need is a system that forces employers to report how many internal complaints they’re getting that allege discrimination, and how much men and women are being paid for doing similar jobs. We’ve got an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, after all, and it’s time that agency’s mandate was expanded to demand those statistics. The way things work now, there are too many ways for banks and brokers to keep evidence of their discrimination under lock and key.

A bit of welcome news in all this: It turns out that six years after Gambale’s 2003 settlement, some of those Deutsche Bank documents were unsealed. They are not available electronically, but I’ve put in a request with a document service to get them. Look for another post when I’ve got them in hand.

After Boom-Boom Room, Fresh Tactics to Fight Bias

The headline-grabbing sex-harassment charges against Wall Street firms in the 1990s are a thing of the past, but not necessarily because things are better for women at financial firms.

In my story today for The New York Times, I discuss the progress — and lack of progress — since “The Boom-Boom Room” lawsuit against Smith Barney became synonymous with lurid behavior at brokerage firms.

Fast-forward 17 years, and such landmark cases are not as prevalent. Wall Street’s women are more aware of their rights and are not so timid anymore, says Linda D. Friedman, a partner at Stowell & Friedman. Still, she says her firm does a lot of work these days behind the scenes, assisting women who face discrimination but are reluctant to pursue litigation because of the repercussions it would have on their careers.

 

You may not be reading about these problems in your favorite newspaper or blog, but they’re still part of life for women who work in finance. You can read my story here.

Don’t Skewer Sheryl Sandberg

There’s a lot of work to be done between here and equality for women. Rich women in good jobs have one set of problems and poor women have another. Women with children pile on a whole new set of challenges. And women most anywhere can tell you there’s still discrimination that needs to be fixed in the workplace.

So why do critics expect that Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook, would be able to solve every problem that women face in one book? I review Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will To Lead” for Bloomberg Muse today. You can read it here.

In a Sex Scandal, You Want to be the Guy, not the Gal

In the unlikely event you missed it, our former Central Intelligence Agency chief got a tad too friendly with Paula Broadwell, the author of his biography “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus.” The ensuing media storm was, frankly, a gift to reporters who were dreading that the fiscal cliff would be the only news story around once the election was over.

But a gift they could have handled with a little more care.

In my Bloomberg View column this week, I take a look at the differences in both the language used and the questions raised in coverage of the two players in Washington’s latest sex scandal. Petraeus, for example, was referred to as “vulnerable.” Broadwell was referred to as a “slut.”

They both cheated on their spouses. They both were accomplished professionals. But there was a lot that wasn’t equal about the way they were treated in the media. “They threw this poor fellow to the wolves,” said celebrity divorce lawyer Raoul Felder on Daily Beast TV. Meanwhile, The Baltimore Sun called it just another “bimbo eruption.” A West Point grad with two master’s degrees, Broadwell is no bimbo. Let’s hope the coverage is a little better next time a sex scandal rolls around.

How To Get Women on Corporate Boards: Friendly Persuasion Didn’t Work, But Quotas Would

If you really want to get a bunch of business types going, mention the q-word.

That would be quotas. The only strategy that’s made much of a difference in the long fight to get women on corporate boards of directors.

There are well-intentioned efforts from New York to London to cajole and embarrass company boards into recruiting women. Helena Morrissey, the CEO of London’s Newton Investment Management, founded the “30 Percent Club” with the goal of filling 30 percent of UK board seats with women by 2015. Joe Keefe, president of Pax World, the socially responsible investors, spearheaded a push in June to send letters to the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 — there were 41 of them — who had no women on their boards.

Four months later, Keefe’s received 14 responses.

You hear a lot of talk about how we just need to get women into the pipeline and the problem will fix itself. Consider a few statistics on that. The number of women earning undergraduate business degrees reached 108,285 in 1985, up tenfold from 1971. By 2002, women surpassed men for the first time with 139,874 business degrees earned.

Yes, I know. Women may have the pedigrees, but they are just so busy abandoning their careers and having babies — what’s a corporation to do? Take some time to read the work done by the New York-based research group Catalyst Inc., which started tracking 4,100 full-time MBA graduates in 2007 to see how similarly situated male and female MBAs would do in the real world. Men started out making $4,600 more than women in their first post-graduation jobs. Even when Catalyst focused only on men and women who aspired to be senior officers, or when they looked only at men and women who had no children, they found men advancing faster and earning more.

In other words, there’s more to the problem than inferior education or time-outs for maternity leaves. Some of us call it gender discrimination.

Viviane Reding, the European Union Justice Commission, is calling for mandatory quotas of women on corporate boards. My guess is she’s right that it’s time to conclude that cajoling and pleas for self-regulation are a waste of time. I write about the flap over quotas in my column for Quartz.com today. Read article.

Let me know your thoughts on this issue. You can email me at susan.antilla15@gmail.com or send me a note @antillaview.

Looking for success in biz? Change your name from ‘Jennifer’ to ‘John’

In the academic world, if your name is John, you’re more likely to be well-thought-of than you would be if your name were Jennifer. When science professors were asked to evaluate the same one-page summary of a promising, but not stellar job applicant, they gave higher scores to the potential applicant whose name was “John” than they did to “Jennifer.”

They estimated that the “Johns” ought to be making more money, too. And they were more likely to be willing to mentor “John.”

The New York Times tonight published a story about new work by researchers at Yale University that adds to the evidence that people making evaluations about the talent and worth of job applicants think more highly of candidates who are men. Even when the men are armed with identical qualifications described in precisely the same words. And even when its a woman making the evaluation.

Combine these findings with the story of “James Chartrand,” a female website developer who ditched her identity and began pitching her newly named company — “Men With Pens” — as an operation run by a guy. Business picked up. Online negotiating became easy.

And then there is the famous study about hiring practices by symphony orchestras. Hide a female musician behind a screen during an audition, and she is more likely to be hired. Here’s a link to that study. Read article.

In a column for CNN.com last week, I talked about the lopsided bylines that readers are exposed to when they read articles in newspapers or online. Women write only 20 percent of newspaper op-eds, yet they’ve received between 70 and 76 percent of all the journalism and mass communications degrees earned over the past ten years. If you have a daughter who isn’t in the workforce yet, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to let her know what she has ahead of her. The fight for gender equality is not finished. It’s barely begun.

What’s the Deal with Women in Journalism?

Reading an op-ed in a major newspaper? Chances are eight in ten it’s written by a man. In fact, 60 percent of newspaper employees are men and almost 70 percent of the commentaries you read on major websites are written by men.

In my latest column for CNN.com, I take a look at what’s happened in journalism since the groundbreaking gender discrimination lawsuit by women at Newsweek 42 years ago.

In her just-published book “The Good Girls Revolt,” Lynn Povich, a 47-year journalism veteran who started as a secretary in the Paris bureau of Newsweek magazine in 1965, tells how 46 women with degrees from top schools fought back after being relegated to jobs checking facts and clipping newspaper stories while men with similar credentials got the bylines and big salaries.

Today’s statistics sound out-of-line when you consider that over the past 10 years, between 70 and 76% of all journalism and mass communications graduates have been women.

Let me know what you think about who’s shaping most of the coverage you’re reading. Read article.

Judge to Kleiner Perkins: Sex Suit Goes to Trial, Not Arbitration

A San Francisco Superior Court judge said this afternoon that he didn’t buy arguments by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers that a sex discrimination case against it should be heard in private arbitration. The venture capital firm was sued in May by Ellen Pao, who said she was pressured into sex by a junior partner and then retaliated against when she complained.

Judge Harold Kahn had already told Kleiner that he wasn’t persuaded by its argument that Pao had no legal right to be in open court, but gave the firm a chance to file a revised motion. Today, Kahn told Kleiner “I thought your papers were terrific,” adding, “and I disagree with all of them.”

Here’s a story by the Mercury News about the action in court today.

I wrote about the Pao case in my Bloomberg column last month; Pao had said in her complaint that the top guys at Kleiner didn’t invite women to power dinners with big clients because women would “kill the buzz.” Kleiner denied her allegations.

Kleiner said today that it will appeal the judge’s decision. Companies fight hard to keep sex discrimination and other cases out of the public eye, and nothing serves that goal better than forcing cases into private arbitration. Here’s a story I wrote describing how the public has suffered from 25 years of business forcing litigants into closed-door arbitration hearings.

Lots of secrets when your employer wants to keep your discrimination complaint out of court

Here’s a great example of how hard a company will work to keep its dirty laundry out of the public eye. Ellen Pao, a junior partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, sued the firm for sex discrimination in May. Kleiner filed its response yesterday, denying Pao’s allegations. Along with its denials, Kleiner also said that Pao shouldn’t be in court at all — she signed documents agreeing to arbitration in the event of a dispute, according to Kleiner. If the firm prevails on that, there will be no public record of the dispute after these initial filings.

And it gets worse, according to the Mercury News, which has reported on documents that aren’t yet available on the San Francisco Superior Court website. Not only does Kleiner say that Pao’s case doesn’t belong in court. It also says that the documents that support that argument should be kept under wraps.

Take a look at my Bloomberg column marking the recent 25th anniversary of an important Supreme Court decision that let brokerage firms force customers to use industry-run arbitration instead of court. It’s only gotten worse for investors, consumers, and employees since that June 8, 1987 decision. It’s too early to make a judgment on either side’s arguments in Pao v Kleiner. But the push to keep things quiet is part of a long, worrisome trend.

I’m always happy to hear from readers. To get in touch with me about my articles, email me at susan.antilla15@gmail. com, or, if you’d prefer, send me a message @antillaview.

Could Silicon Valley Sex Discrimination Case Get Kicked Out of Court?

Sex discrimination isn’t the iPad, folks. It’s more like
the electric typewriter.

When you see the words “tech” or “venture capital,” you think of brilliant geeks coming up with cool new stuff you’d never heard of before, right? Well tech types are in the 1980s when it comes to sex discrimination cases. Ellen Pao, who sued the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers last month, is claiming that the guys she worked with excluded her from meetings and held fancy dinners with big clients and left the women out. One of her partners said it would “kill the buzz” to have women at one power dinner, according to her suit. We didn’t fix that leaving-the-girls-out thing a couple decades ago?

Kleiner has said the suit is “without merit,” and its star general partner, John Doerr, said in a letter posted on the firm’s website on May 30 that it all amounted to “false allegations against his firm, which boasts “the most” women of any leading venture capital firm. As luck would have it, Kleiner’s woman numbers rose by one the next day, when the firm announced a new partner to focus on investments in consumer internet business, Megan Quinn, would begin in late June.

We’ll see if Pao can even get to court. Kleiner spokeswoman Amanda Duckworth told me in an email that the firm believes Pao’s claims “are covered by an arbitration agreement.” Alan Exelrod, Pao’s lawyer, declined to comment when I asked him if she’d signed anything obligating her to arbitration. Kleiner hasn’t filed any request to have the complaint kicked out of court, but companies in employment disputes usually love the idea of getting a case out of the public eye. Here’s my Bloomberg column on the Pao case and its striking resemblance to lawsuits 20 years past. Read article