Not since the movie Wall Street, have financial bankers been tarred with such an ugly brush as during this recession. The shock waves have sent cracks into the foundation of the world of finance and there is definitely a great deal of self examination going on in Board rooms, and universities. Some are calling for the end of macho, saying it was this aggressive, male-dominated attitude of Wall Street that took us on this wild and devastating ride.
It is true that 80% of job losses in the US are male dominated roles in manufacturing and construction, leaving women to step into the bread winner role within their families. Reihan Salam believes the end of macho began years ago and that there has been a quiet revolution where power has shifted from men to women in the Western world. He says the Great Recession has sped up this transfer, “The consequence will be not only a mortal blow to the macho men’s club called finance capitalism that got the world into the current economic catastrophe; it will be a collective crisis for millions and millions of working men around the globe.”
Having seen financial instruments level their economy, Reihan Salam points out how the people of Iceland replaced their President with a woman who some say, brings a calmer and more level headed approach.
When it comes to Toronto's finance world, there has always been a wide spread between the type of males who dominate. Tim Hockey, President & CEO of TD Canada Trust, describes the range as Patriots and Mercenaries, with Patriots being the people at the branches working for their communities, while investment bankers need to seek out the revenue which requires a more "Mercenary" nature. Tarring them all with a macho brush is simply not valid.
Financial men are very diverse in character. Sure, you have the macho cowboys; but there are many intelligent, hand firmly on the rudder types too, who are strong, determined and have the energy to do the long hours. Ironically, their positions may be the first roles to get filled by women in the future because in my experience, these men help women get ahead. They want the skills for their teams and are not threatened by smart women. I have also observed that the finance community in Canada does work hard to get women up the career ladders.
I believe the trading floor where the adrenaline flows, will be the last position to be filled for women. It's not because men keep women out, it's because women self-select themselves out of direct sales and trading positions. Again, a trader needs to be more mercenary and aggressive; they are paid to take risks within the boundaries. The ability to take risk is what gives a competitive advantage.
I have two sons so I am very aware of the feminizing of boys in our culture. And I have to work hard to make my boys happy to be aggressive through sports, debating and martial arts, etc. Girls in Canada are now getting sports training too and are encouraged to debate and compete, so young females are changing. There will be female Madoffs in the future too. Women are not perfectly behaved, thoughtful, compassionate creatures who will not want to be greedy. We are just getting going because the birth control pill only started in our life times. Give it a few more decades.
So maybe Reihem Salam is right and that macho is at an end but I think that is a rather idealistic and sexist view and ask if women will prove to be any different in the long run?
Jacoline Loewen, (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a partner in a private equity firm, Loewen & Partners, dedicated to raising capital for family business owners and developing their growth strategies.