Don’t Stay Quiet.
When I was 25 and finishing up a temp job at a large brokerage firm, I asked the man I had been assisting if he would answer a few questions. The industry intrigued me, but I didn’t know how to get started so I asked for his suggestions.
He looked up at me and said “Honey, women don’t belong in this industry. Pick something else.” Um, excuse me? The woman I was at 25 politely demurred and thanked him. The woman I am now would have handled his comment very differently. Even though I didn’t speak up then, I vowed to prove him wrong.
If he only knew I’m celebrating a 35-year career on Wall Street this year. After working my way up from being a wire operator (orders were sent to the trading floor via wire) to getting licensed, my career has been varied and fulfilling. I spent many years trading equities and options for institutional clients, worked on an exchange floor and later in life merged my writing skills with my industry knowledge to start a financial writing and editing business. I’m now an Executive Director for a wealth management firm.
What did I learn from my experience 35 years ago? Speak up. Not in a way that’s disrespectful or shaming, but from a place of genuine authenticity. I wish I could say those types of comments and treatment are a thing of the past—they aren’t. Scenes in the movies Wall Street and The Wolf of Wall Street are alive and well in the real world, but tempered by more awareness of the sexism and ageism women face in the industry.
Just a few months ago I politely pointed out to my leader the bad optics of a decision he made that had shades of both ageism and sexism. He listened. He learned. He apologized. He also thanked me for raising his awareness.
The 25-year-old version of me would not have had the guts to initiate a conversation like that, but the 59-year-old version does. My age is a gift in that regard.
MEA alum Tracey Franks was raised by a single mother in the 1960s in the Outer Sunset district of San Francisco, made her way to Berkeley and ultimately to Wall Street. She is the managing editor of The Edge magazine, a quarterly publication designed to help financial professionals grow their practices.