A friend recently shared this rather unpleasant NYT article on social media, which sparked an interesting discussion about workplace sexism. One commenter said he couldn't feel bad for these women because - well, I'll let him use his own words:
The woman in the story leaves the bank after five years, ending what might have been a "brilliant career on Wall Street." What often constitutes a "brilliant" career on Wall Street seems to me to include the sorts of predatory, irresponsible, and morally bankrupt strategies that are often condemned by outside viewers. I don't mourn the fact that someone was prevented from participating in that business and culture.
It sounds like a valid viewpoint. Wall Street is bad; we should be focusing on dismantling it instead of trying to make the cadre of exploitative assholes who run our financial system more diverse. But I also strongly disagree for a couple of reasons.
The mere presence of women changes business culture.
We know from empirical evidence that companies with women on their boards make more money. Women take fewer ill-advised risks than men and generally outperform men in investing, which you'd imagine wold be a useful thing on Wall Street!
Maybe the toxic, wasteful, and destructive culture on Wall Street is partly due to the fact that it's largely populated by entitled frat boys with nobody to tell them they're being assholes? I can't promise that more women (and PoC and other underrepresented folks) in high finance will fix all of the things that are wrong with it, but integrating the trading floor is a way easier way to start than burning the entire system down (however appealing that might be).
Having women at the levers of power matters.
This is the other big reason that integrating Wall Street is so important. Wall Street holds a lot of the levers of power in the modern world. Women being largely excluded from Wall Street has a trickle-down effect in everything from who gets elected to national office to whose startup gets venture capital funding.
It's all well and good to say, "Screw Wall Street; women shouldn't even want to work there!" but the reality right now is that Wall Street being dominated by white men contributes to white men also dominating business, politics, the high-tech sector, and many other important and arguably more virtuous segments of our society.
The argument ultimately boils down to the tired old "boys will be boys".
We tend look at these kinds of stories, throw up our hands, and say, "Well, what did they expect?" It's the exact same dismissal we see when women complain about their treatment in everything from the military to competitive video gaming. And it's wrong.
When we tell women not to bother working or playing in male-dominated arenas, not only are we complicit in limiting their career options but we also implicitly condone unacceptable behavior by men everywhere. When Silicon Valley bigwigs hold important meetings at strip clubs; when women aren't invited on business trips because they'd "ruin the mood"; whenever a woman is subjected to behavior that's dismissed with "boys will be boys" or excluded because otherwise men would have to behave themselves like adults - these all damage our ability to succeed and advance in the workplace.
You can't just isolate the problem and hope it will go away. There is no place where sexism is acceptable, and we should not - cannot - allow men to carve out places where it is.
Even if that place is the hive of scum and villainy that is Wall Street.