Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Fork in the Road

The Fork in the Road: Can Women and Wall Street Live Together? By Jenny Anderson (B1, NYT, 8/6/06)

The cover story in the Times’ Sunday Business section focused on the work-life balance dilemma playing out on Wall Street. Not surprisingly, it’s the same story, different location - successful women at the top of their game, opting out to raise families, leaving an industry willing, but unsure how, to modify a 24/7 workplace.

The protagonist, one Elizabeth Stoeber, formerly of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, is trying to carve out her own solution. In anticipation of “on-ramping” when her two sons are older, Ms. Stoeber is “absolutely determined to stay professionally attractive.” She started a consulting company, works for a boutique investment bank and is shopping around a proposal to job-share a full-time position at a major bank.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Wall Street’s current environment doesn’t really support part-time work or flexible hours, despite good intentions to accommodate these arrangements. Countering this reality is evidence that the workforce of the future simply won’t bite at the tempting apple of huge salaries in exchange for unlimited hours of work.

The entire piece is well worth the read, but here are a few favorite quotes to whet your appetites:

“The first generation was about access of opportunity. It worked. It got us here. Now we have to learn how not to lose that talent at 35.”
Sylvia Anne Hewlett, President, Center for Work-Life Balance.

“The work force of tomorrow is at home. They are not old or retired. They are in their 40’s and 50’s.”
Patricia David, Global head of diversity and talent management of Citigroup’s investment banking unit.

“The real difference between today and 5 or 10 years ago is that now everyone recognizes that there is a true business case for having a diverse workforce. You don’t have to justify that diversity is good.”
Alice Wang, a managing director at J.P. Morgan who has enjoyed both flextime and telecommuting during her career there.

Here’s a final hopeful note. Lucia Bonilla, a superstar Princeton grad, will start her career at USB this fall because:

“ I saw pregnant women on the trading floor, three or four of them. . . . Not all women want to have children, but in the future I may want to and it was reassuring to walk around the floor and see that it was possible.”

It’s all about those precedents I mentioned in my last post, “Pay it Forward.” Those of us who can stake a small claim toward increasing flexibility in our own workplaces inspire and embolden those coming along behind us.