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Wall Street Women [Paperback]

Melissa S. Fisher
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

23 July 2012
Wall Street Women tells the story of the first generation of women to establish themselves as professionals on Wall Street. Since these women, who began their careers in the 1960s, faced blatant discrimination and barriers to advancement, they created formal and informal associations to bolster one another's careers. In this important historical ethnography, Melissa S. Fisher draws on fieldwork, archival research, and extensive interviews with a very successful cohort of first-generation Wall Street women. She describes their professional and political associations, most notably the Financial Women's Association of New York City, which was founded in the 1950s, and the Women's Campaign Fund, a bipartisan group formed to promote the election of pro-choice women. Fisher charts the evolution of the women's careers, the growth of their political and economic clout, changes in their perspectives and the cultural climate on Wall Street, and their experiences of the 2008 financial collapse. While most of the pioneering subjects of Wall Street Women did not participate in the women's movement as it was happening in the 1960s and 1970s, Fisher argues that they did produce a "market feminism" which aligned liberal feminist ideals about meritocracy and gender equity with the logic of the market.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press (23 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822353458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822353454
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 14.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 990,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Georgetown University anthropologist Fisher, co-editor of Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Reflections on the New Economy, combines the detached curiosity of an anthropologist studying the folkways of a tribal village with a sure grasp of history, politics, and economics, as well as an affectionate regard for her subjects, a small group of highly successful women who entered Wall Street in the '60s." --Publishers Weekly, May 2012

"Melissa Fisher's Wall Street Women introduces us to a feminist world that we can hardly imagine. As they dream of changing the hostile domain of finance, women find themselves drawing on traditional notions of gender equality and coaching each other in old-fashioned survival skills. Written in enticing prose, Wall Street Women offers us an illuminating peek into a wholly unexpected fusion of feminism with the market." --Alice Kessler-Harris, author of A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman

"Extensively researched and thoroughly documented, this portrait of a pioneering generation of women provides context for understanding the emergent discourse of feminizing markets. Strongly recommended for readers interested in business anthropology or gender studies, particularly for gendered discourses of finance and the female financial elite." Rebekah Wallin, Library Journal, June 2012 "Detecting gendering in high finance is a long-standing challenge - it is a domain inhospitable to the main categories of feminist analysis. Melissa Fisher goes at it with gusto and gives us a great book." --Saskia Sassen, author of Territory, Authority, Rights

About the Author

Melissa Fisher is Visiting Assistant Professor at New York University's Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. She is a coeditor of "Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Reflections on the New Economy," also published by Duke University Press.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Double-Paned Glass Ceiling 5 Aug 2012
By takingadayoff TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
Melissa Fisher is an anthropologist who, instead of studying remote populations of people in exotic locales, looks at the behavior of the people of Wall Street. Her focus in this book is the first generation of women to work in Wall Street brokerage houses and investment banks. Most women who worked in the finance industry before the 1970s were secretaries and clerks, aside from a few notable exceptions such as Muriel Siebert, who owned her own brokerage house. Fisher's target though, is the first wave of women to work as brokers and in sales and as analysts. They were the first generation of women who were on a career track to become partners and CEOs.

The first of these women, who entered the work force in the 1960s and 1970s are retiring now in the 2000s and 2010s. Did they make it in what had always been a man's profession? If they succeeded, how did they do it? Did they follow the rules or make up their own? Fisher wanted to hear their stories - how they decided to get into the business, what obstacles they had to overcome, how their careers progressed, whether they changed careers, how far they got.

Her main sources are two of the organizations for professional women in finance on Wall Street. She found that many women benefited from their association with other women in the field and that the organizations functioned as a sort of "old girls" networks for women, who did not have access to the old boys networks that already existed. Contrary to expectations, the women who entered the profession were not simply female versions of the sort of men who came to Wall Street. The women were largely middle class rather than upper class and didn't have established social and professional connections to fall back on.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is the Glass (Ceiling) Half Empty or Half Full? 22 Jun 2012
By takingadayoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Melissa Fisher is an anthropologist who, instead of studying remote populations of people in exotic locales, looks at the behavior of the people of Wall Street. Her focus in this book is the first generation of women to work in Wall Street brokerage houses and investment banks. Most women who worked in the finance industry before the 1970s were secretaries and clerks, aside from a few notable exceptions such as Muriel Siebert, who owned her own brokerage house. Fisher's target though, is the first wave of women to work as brokers and in sales and as analysts. They were the first generation of women who were on a career track to become partners and CEOs.

The first of these women, who entered the work force in the 1960s and 1970s are retiring now in the 2000s and 2010s. Did they make it in what had always been a man's profession? If they succeeded, how did they do it? Did they follow the rules or make up their own? Fisher wanted to hear their stories - how they decided to get into the business, what obstacles they had to overcome, how their careers progressed, whether they changed careers, how far they got.

Her main sources are two of the organizations for professional women in finance on Wall Street. She found that many women benefited from their association with other women in the field and that the organizations functioned as a sort of "old girls" networks for women, who did not have access to the old boys networks that already existed. Contrary to expectations, the women who entered the profession were not simply female versions of the sort of men who came to Wall Street. The women were largely middle class rather than upper class and didn't have established social and professional connections to fall back on.

No one had expected them to go into finance, unlike many of their male peers. Many went to public universities as opposed to the Ivy League schools their male counterparts attended. In addition to having to forge their own networks of colleagues without the benefit of family connections, Ivy League connections, and country club connections, every aspect of their performance and appearance was scrutinized. There was no "uniform" to wear, such as the men had (Brooks Brothers), so they even had to establish a look that distinguished them from the secretaries and looked businesslike and feminine. But not too feminine.

The professional women's organizations were a lifeline to many of the women, who felt isolated, because although their numbers were growing, it was usually the case that each was the only woman executive at her company. Fisher finds that although the women could play the dog-eat-dog game when necessary, they were also quite cooperative and the more experienced women were generous with their advice and influence when the newer women needed it.

Fisher shows how the first wave made progress through the decades until the financial collapse of 2008. Gains for women were pretty much wiped out when the three women who had come closest to making CEO were fired or forced out. Fisher's interviewees see similarities in politics, in particular the way Hillary Clinton was treated during the campaign for Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. (See Rebecca Traister's Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women for a devastatingly incisive account of the campaign.)

In the end, you may be disappointed, but not surprised, that women still hold only a tiny minority of influential posts on Wall Street. On the other hand, you'll be encouraged by the camaraderie and real cooperation among women in the field to help each other succeed. Either way, Wall Street Women is a fascinating addition to the history of Wall Street and of women in the work force.

(I received a review copy of Wall Street Women from the publisher.)
5.0 out of 5 stars Used a a great reference 6 Feb 2013
By GENE MASSEY - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is the definitive work on the subject - very very informative and I used it as a reference in my talk on Wall Street.
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