From the Washington Post:

Martha Burk retired as chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) in 2005, but her four-year quest to persuade Augusta National to admit its first female member proved extremely costly last week for the New York-based investment banking firm of Morgan Stanley, which agreed to pay $46 million to settle a class action gender discrimination lawsuit filed by eight female employees representing 2,700 current and former employees.

The lawsuit, backed by Burk’s group, focused on gender inequity in the
distribution of accounts to female brokers and other business

Burk told the Post that Morgan Stanely was one of the first targets because its former chief executive, Philip Purcell, three other members of the board of directors and two retired chairmen were all members of Augusta National when the suit was filed. Augusta National, the private Georgia golf club, famously does not allow women members.

“In terms of Augusta National, it’s a straight arrow from their membership policies to this action,” Burk said of the settlement.

The suit grew out of the NCWO’s Women on Wall Street initiative, which was founded three years ago to investigate allegations of gender bias and exclusionary practices at financial institutions.

“The financial sector is so heavily represented in the Augusta membership, and these companies control billions of women’s consumer and shareholder dollars, as well as the jobs of many thousands of women,” according to Women on Wall Street. “A ‘women are second class citizens’ attitude by corporate leaders trickles all the way down, to the lowest paid women in the firm –- and possibly translates into pay discrimination, glass ceilings, and sexual harassment up and down the line.”

Women on Wall Street partnered with the law firm Mehri & Skalet, a leading authority on glass ceiling, sexual harassment, and pay discrimination issues.

In a press release about the settlement with Morgan Stanley, co-lead counsel Cyrus Mehri said it’s “one of the ten largest monetary awards in a gender discrimination settlements in U.S. history.”

“Most importantly,” he added, “we anticipate that this settlement will have an enduring impact on the way America’s financial institutions treat female financial advisors.”


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  • gene May 6, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    This decision demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a strong nexus between the board room and the “green room” beyond the fact that business decisions are often made during a round of golf or at the “19th hole”. Gender insensitivity and stupidity in one is likely to be displayed in the other as well.