Goldman in the dock over press-ups and strip clubs

Three female ex-employees sue Goldman Sachs, claiming its macho culture discriminates against women. More great PR...

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Just when Goldman Sachs thought its public image couldn't take any more of a pasting, after its recent wrangles with authority, along comes a sex discrimination lawsuit from three of its ex-female staff. The women claim that there's a pervading macho culture on the Goldman trading floor - including impromptu press-up competitions, men-only golf days and evening trips to strip clubs - as a result of which women don't get the pay and promotions they deserve. Wonder what this will do for Goldman's diversity efforts?

The claim has been brought by three ex-Goldmanites, but the law firm representing them is an old hand at this kind of class action: it's already set up an anti-Goldman website, through which it's apparently hoping to weed out other disgruntled female ex-staff with a burning sense for justice (/ a pain-free pay-day). And if their allegations prove to be true, it certainly doesn't sound like a terribly female-friendly atmosphere : one of the plaintiffs alleges that her male colleagues had press-up competitions on the trading floor, or disappeared on golf trips without inviting her, while one promotion was apparently celebrated in a local topless bar.

So far, so lurid. But perhaps the more damaging allegations concern a kind of institutional sexism. The complaint suggests, for example, that women were often given the job of training new staff - and then effectively penalised because they were no longer directly generating revenues for the firm. It also suggests that Goldman's decentralised structure, which gives managers massive amounts of discretion over pay and promotion, means that male bosses 'whether based on conscious or unexamined bias' end up giving the plum jobs and the biggest bonuses to alpha males like themselves.

As you'd expect, Goldman has hotly denied these charges; a spokesman briefly departed from the bank's usual tedious 'no comment' policy to claim that the bank makes 'extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals'. But this suit suggests that since the proportion of women dwindles the higher up Goldman you go, there's clearly something going wrong somewhere.

Now this may be just an opportunistic attempt to kick Goldman while it's (relatively) down, in the wake of all these regulatory fines. But for anyone who's worked in the City, the idea that there's a macho culture on the trading floor will hardly seem outlandish. And whatever the truth of the matter, this kind of publicity will do Goldman's chances of attracting talented female staff no good at all. Albeit we can’t imagine too many shrinking violets want to go and work there in the first place.

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