Peg Reed knew she was called “Miss Bitch” on the desk when she was trading currencies on 1980s Wall Street. While running foreign-exchange desks in New York at the same time, Charlotte DeBenedictis was paid less than the men working for her.
Today, these pioneers say that even as their successors climb to the highest echelons in the male-dominated world of currency trading, toughness is still at a premium.
“You had to have a thick skin to work on Wall Street,” said Reed, who traded foreign exchange for Bank of America Corp., Credit Agricole SA, AIG Trading Ltd. and Standard Chartered Plc for two decades. “It wasn’t for the faint of heart and you couldn’t take things personally. But it was a very exciting world, and as you grow into senior positions, women have to show that strength.”
In the wake of the trading scandals that rocked the foreign-exchange industry in recent years, the new vanguard of female leadership includes Claudia Jury, who was appointed co-head of foreign exchange and emerging markets at JPMorgan Chase & Co. two years ago; Catherine Flax at BNP Paribas SA and Camilla Sutton at Bank of Nova Scotia, who were both promoted last year. They’re chipping away at Wall Street’s bros’ club — in the 21st century jargon of a gender-bias lawsuit filed in New York this month.
“There are quite a lot of senior women and an even larger number of juniors coming up,” BNP’s Flax said in an e-mailed response to questions.
As more women reach management level, they’re increasingly using that influence to address the gender imbalance. Flax says BNP Paribas has promoted women to lead electronic markets in both London and New York. JPMorgan’s Jury hosts panel discussions to recruit female students and sits on the executive committee of the Corporate & Investment Bank’s Women’s Network.
“When I look above me, there are women but they’re few and far between,” said Sutton, Toronto-based head of global foreign exchange at Scotiabank, Canada’s third-largest lender. “My bosses and the people who’ve led the businesses have typically been men. Hopefully we’re changing that.”
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