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Wall Street: A Woman’s Perspective

A Woman's Perspective: Wall Street
Photo by Tatum Mangus

Amidst conversations about pay gaps and sexual harassment in the workplace lies an inherent understanding that some careers, even today, are catered to and characterized by men. Finance and all its ancillary industries is just one example, despite research indicating that women investors, who tend to be more risk averse and less aggressive, consistently outperform male investors. The authors of “Boys Will Be Boys: Gender, Overconfidence and Common Stock Investment,” still considered by many to be the seminal research on the subject, found that from 1991 to 1997, men traded 45 percent more than women, reducing net returns by 2.65 percentage points compared to a woman’s 1.72 percentage points. Yet no woman has ever been the CEO at any investment bank. In fact, some research has shown that women only make up 15 percent of Wall Street traders. In the face of some seemingly overwhelming advantages, you’ve gotta ask, “What gives?”

AWT sat down with a female trader at a major investment bank to discuss trading, personalities, and how women can get ahead in a male-dominated field. Speaking under the guise of anonymity, our trader sums her advice up perfectly: When an opportunity arises, take it, and take it fast.

“Men don’t really apologize and tend to be less emotional. The guys just push right for it. They’ll push through and leave you.”

Trading is still a career that tends to be predominantly male. What’s it like being a woman on that path?

It has shown me a different perspective, but they’ve always treated me as a trader and I have received the same training anyone with my skill set would have gotten. They’ve never coddled me.

I understand the issues that some women face in such a male-dominated role. It’s difficult being in that environment as the only female. But I like it. It pushes me. And this is where that new, different perspective comes in: Men don’t really apologize and tend to be less emotional. The guys just push right for it. They’ll push through and leave you. That attitude makes you stronger and unemotional in your trading.

When you got started, was it sink or swim?

It’s feast or famine, sink or swim. They pull you in and you have to figure this out. It might not be for everyone, but for my personality type and background, it was a great fit. My experience as an athlete helped: being competitive, moving quickly, working with teammates. The market is like this huge puzzle and you’re the detective putting it together. It’s very stimulating.

Would you say there is room for many different personality types?

Definitely. We always say on my team, everyone has a different skill set and we all band together for the greater good. We’re all very different.

What’s your personality and skill set on the team?

I’m much more willing to take a different perspective than most. If everyone says something is blue, I’ll say, “I think it’s green,” if that’s what I see. I tend to be the one that always takes the other side.

“I communicated my career goals. I said, I want to get to this point. Tell me how to get to this point. I don’t think women do this enough.”

What advice do you have for other women looking to progress in their career?

You have to differentiate yourself for the better. I truly don’t think women ask enough. I communicated my career goals. I said, I want to get to this point. Tell me how to get to this point. I don’t think women do this enough.

What about networking?

I think it’s really important, not so much for the connections, but because you need to have senior mentors. For me, I’ve found mentors across the firm. I want to understand all the different departments and what everyone does. Sometimes you find someone in a totally different department who becomes a mentor for you. That can bring a fresh perspective too. And you also need supporters throughout your firm.

How do you go about forming these connections?

I try to get involved in the projects that they’re doing. If there’s someone I want to connect with, I’ll see what they’re working on and if there’s any way I can help.

As a final thought, given the theme for this issue, what’s the wildest part of your job?

What amazes me about the market is that it’s different every single day. You have no idea what’s going to happen. So to me, it’s like every single day is wild. I could walk in and it could be a completely dead day where I hardly trade. But then there could be a headline on a name that I cover and suddenly spreads have blown out 50 points and I’m on the phone all day.

This article originally appeared in the Wild issue. For more inspiring stories about women, check out What I Learned as a Woman Traveling Alone and The Journey of a Female Sommelier: From Paris to New York.