This week’s New York Magazine has a wild story about the firing of Morgan Stanley executive Zoe Cruz, 52, perhaps the most powerful woman on Wall Street. The story is a dramatic tale of the double standards that women in finance face.

Wall Street women, by and large, were not surprised. In tough financial times, female executives tend to be the first to go. “In a bull market, women are fine,” says Janet Hanson, a former Goldman Sachs executive who runs the women’s networking group 85 Broads. “When the shit hits the fan, these guys probably don’t even trust each other. Could you theorize that more women get chucked when things start going deadly? They sacrificed her.” Women got slaughtered during the dot-com bust in 2001, says Linda Bialecki. The gender breakdown of the Wall Street workforce, according to a Securities Industry Association study, went from 43 percent women in 1999, just before the peak of the tech boom, to 37 percent in 2003, after the layoffs.

It pays to remember that in 2004, Morgan Stanley settled a sex discrimination suit for $54 million, distributing proceeds to 67 female employees. Here is WVFC’s own financial guru Susan Stewart take;

"Here’s what you have to understand. The brokerage culture is unlike most other corporate structures.  It doesn’t have the typical hierarchy where authority grows from bottom upward. 

"I’m not a social scientist and my observations are purely my own," says Stewart, "but at brokerages with which I’m familiar, the two martini lunch appears alive and well.  This is still an environment characterized by sales contests and mutual fund wholesalers’ cocktail parties and junkets. It’s competitive and loud and jokes aimed at women are still common. Unlike other corporate structures wherein employee dating is discouraged, affairs abound between broker and broker and broker and sales assistant within the same office. In short, the industry is in a gender time warp."

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