Wall Street women: professional saviors of the global economy

Melissa Fisher (Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University, New York, NY, USA)

critical perspectives on international business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Publication date: 5 May 2015

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to, by drawing on two decades of field work on Wall Street, explore the recent evolution in the gendering of Wall Street, as well as the potential effects – including the reproduction of financiers’ power – of that evolution. The 2008 financial crisis was depicted in strikingly gendered terms – with many commentators articulating a divide between masculine, greedy, risk-taking behavior and feminine, conservative, risk-averse approaches for healing the crisis. For a time, academics, journalists and women on Wall Street appeared to be in agreement in identifying women’s feminine styles as uniquely suited to lead – even repair – the economic debacle.

Design/methodology/approach

The article is based on historical research, in-depth interviews and fieldwork with the first generation of Wall Street women from the 1970s up until 2013.

Findings

In this article, it is argued that the preoccupation in feminine styles of leadership in finance primarily reproduces the power of white global financial elites rather than changes the culture of Wall Street or breaks down existent structures of power and inequality.

Research limitations/implications

The research focuses primarily on the ways American global financial elites maintain power, and does not examine the ways in which the power of other international elites working in finance is reproduced in a similar or different manner.

Practical implications

The findings of the article provide practical implications for understanding the gendering of financial policy making and how that gendering maintains or reproduces the economic system.

Social implications

The paper provides an understanding of how the gendered rhertoric of the financial crisis maintains not only the economic power of global financial elites in finance but also their social and cultural power.

Originality/value

The paper is based on original, unique, historical ethnographic research on the first generation of women on Wall Street.

Keywords

Citation

Fisher, M. (2015), "Wall Street women: professional saviors of the global economy", critical perspectives on international business, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 137-155. https://doi.org/10.1108/cpoib-11-2012-0054

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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