'Strip club and golf outings culture' at Goldman Sachs challenged by female staff

Stephen Foley
Sunday 23 October 2011 05:00

Goldman Sachs discriminates against its female employees, it is alleged in a lawsuit that paints a familiar picture of a Wall Street culture that involves all-boys outings, visits to strip clubs and undervaluing women on the trading floor.

Three former employees launched a legal action against the powerful investment bank yesterday, and urged fellow female employees to join them in seeking millions of dollars in compensation.

One former vice-president in the bank's convertible bonds business described how she had been groped by a male employee after an after-work party at Scores, a topless bar in Manhattan. The junior employee was later promoted over her head, says the complaint filed by Cristina Chen-Oster.

Shanna Orlich, a former trader, described a jobs-for-the-boys culture, with loyalties cemented through macho activities such as push-ups on the trading floor and golf trips. She said she had been the only person in her department not invited to a golf outing organised for 80 Goldman employees, only one of whom was a woman – ironically, since she had played varsity golf for her high school team.

The lawsuit, which seeks class action status so it can win compensation even for women who are not named as plaintiffs, was also joined by Lisa Parisi, a former Goldman managing director in asset management.

It alleges that women are routinely confined to distant desks, excluded from the best revenue-generating jobs, given less well-rewarded tasks such as training new employees, and are marked down by their mainly male peers in the evaluations on which bonuses are based.

As a result, only 14 per cent of the partners, the elite level of employees at the company, were women in 2008, and only four members of the 30-strong management committee are female. The policies "are part and parcel of an outdated corporate culture," said the complaint, filed in a Manhattan court. "Goldman Sachs has intentionally implemented these company-wide policies and practices in order to pay their male employees more money than their female counterparts, and to promote them more frequently."

Goldman managers have unfettered discretion to assign accounts and responsibilities, and decide who gets administrative support and training, it says, perpetuating male dominance of the company.

The plaintiffs' attorney Kelly Dermody said: "This case challenges Goldman Sachs' practice of treating its talented female professionals like disposable, second-class citizens. By coming forward, the plaintiffs are working to ensure a level playing field across Wall Street."

A Goldman Sachs spokesman said the lawsuit is without merit, and would be fought. "People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals."

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