More evidence that Wall Street is still a boys club

Six women sue an investment bank for being denied promotions -- and for having to endure lewd behavior.

Published January 10, 2006 2:48PM (EST)

A front-page story in the Business section of the New York Times today details a bias lawsuit brought by six women at the investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein Services. The suit claims that the women were denied bonuses and promotions equal to those that went to male employees who were less experienced, and details instances of "lewd behavior toward the women, entertainment of clients at a strip club and repeated examples of scaled back opportunities for women after they returned from maternity leave," according to the Times.

Like many banks on Wall Street, Dresdner Kleinwort has few women in senior positions. According to May 2005 data cited in the lawsuit and by the Times, "women account for less than 2 percent of managing directors in Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein's worldwide capital markets division. Only 13 percent of directors, the next level down, are women. Of the 500 women in the capital markets division, about 60 percent are associates, the second-lowest rank, or below."

All of the plaintiffs hold senior positions and still work at the bank.

The suit claims, among other indignities, that Katherine Smith, a director of equity sales trading who has worked at the bank for 10 years, was referred to as the "Pamela Anderson of sales/trading" by her boss. Another woman complained that a male managing director -- the most senior ranking on Wall Street -- regularly brought prostitutes to the office during his lunch hour.


The plaintiffs also claim that their status as mothers hindered their ability to get ahead. Smith was one of the top producers in commissions generated for stock sales, but according to the suit was given "progressively lower" bonuses and was denied promotions because "she is a woman and because she has a child." Another plaintiff, Jyoti Ruta, a director in structured finance who has worked for the firm since 1994, claims she was "stripped of revenue-generating opportunities, left out of critical client events and generally relegated to the sidelines after she returned from maternity leave in 2003," according to the Times.

Women "love their work, they are building their careers and they believe in the firm," Ruta told the Times, "but they are treated in such a way that they will never advance."

The lawsuit, filed yesterday in Manhattan, seeks class-action status on behalf of 500 women who work at Dresdner Kleinwort, and seeks $1.4 billion for "economic damages, emotional distress, harm to reputation and punitive damages."

Good luck, ladies.

By Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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