03.13.2014
By Terry Flanagan

Trials and Tribulations of My Terrific NY

 Part One of a Three-Part Series

To quote my favorite lines from Jay Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’:

“In New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh
There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you, let’s hear it for New York
New York, New York”

…I couldn’t agree more.

My NY is My haven. My safe place. My passion. My lust. My love affair. My teacher. My pain. My sorrow. My sadness. My happiness. My appetite. My never-satiated wonder. My intrigue. My hope. My downfall. My reason for understanding.

NY Is not an easy place to start, however it makes you stronger than you will ever give yourself credit for. Contingent upon the vocation you find yourself succumbing to, you have a variety of lessons to be learned; in this first of a three-part series, I shall share with you the NY aspect of women in financial services. If you have any affiliation to this industry, I need not explain further….but I will.

For those of you who work on Wall Street, you know it’s not a place to easily prove yourself. Here is my first experience…..

The Boys’ Club

“She’s a 12 but her neighbor is a 2, at best”.

This is one of the first statements I heard upon being offered a job at a fixed-income trading shop.

We all know how women (particularly if somewhat attractive) are spoken of among the chauvinistic, sexist, abrasive, unforgiving Neanderthals we like to call men, however the open forum of a contest taking place right in front of my very eyes was astonishing. I was 22 at the time and very much looking forward to my new venture within financial services, aka The Lion’s Den. Realizing I had fallen into a pit of what I refer to as the The Boys’ Club, I quickly developed a thick skin that can at least help insulate women against the jokes, inappropriate commentary and obnoxious chuckles. It’s up to us women to either be offended by such shenanigans, or perhaps join in.

Before I knew it, more and more of my esteemed male colleagues were morphing into, dare I say, friends, who would seek my advice on various topics. Who knew I had the ability to pick winners of college football games? The trust and bonds created were not only beneficial from a personal standpoint, but it had done something far greater: earned respect.

The time vested in building these relationships was symbiotic from a business standpoint, as I found myself being called on for additional projects, client meetings, and participation in everything pertaining to the business, spanning front office and back office areas such as QA, technology, business development, and product management. I soon became known as the ‘one who is eager to partake’ in projects, calls, meetings, you name it. I was joining product managers on their external meetings to provide expertise of our trading platform, and I was entertaining clients and building trust with decision makers on the buy side and the sell side.

I learned that solid relationships are imperative not only in this business but life in general. Relationships are what carry you through in every aspect of your day-to-day life, so nurturing them is essentially an investment in your future, both personal and professional.

While I could have taken offense at a chauvinistic remark on the first day of being a naïve 22 year old (initially, I did as my jaw needed to picked up off the floor and my eyes plugged back in their sockets), instead I took for what it was worth: a harmless comment that you may hear anywhere. How you choose to respond to it (or not) and not be defined by it is entirely up to you.

That said, the glass ceiling still exists, however as time goes by, women are not only making great strides within the financial services sector, they have become an integral and essential part of it. Will this lead to the sunset of The Boys Club? Maybe not, but perhaps it’s one club I don’t mind being a member of.

Here’s to NY……


Mademoiselle Wanderlust is a regular contributor to the Markets Media Life section.

Featured image via  Flickr/Drew Dies under CC

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