What’s Wrong With Wall Street? Nothing a Good Dose of Estrogen Can’t Fix

Do you know these women?  You should.

Because they’re pretty much the only thing that stands between us and the next financial collapse of the American economy.

TIME Magazine’s cover story this week is called, The Sheriffs of Wall Street.  And those sheriffs aren’t who you might expect — they’re Elizabeth Warren, head of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (better known to us as TARP), SEC Chair Mary Schapiro and FDIC Chair Sheila Bair.  These are women who should be in everyone’s address book, because we all ought to be sending them thank you notes (and I bet they wouldn’t mind a little FTD bouquet, either!).

The TIME article takes a look at the ongoing battles these three are fighting to put our economy back on the right track and the uphill fight they’re facing because the men who are used to being in charge don’t want to change the regulatory status quo.

It reminded me of another TIME Magazine cover on a similar subject just a few years ago:

The current TIME article has an interesting undercurrent that, as someone who spent a good number of years at the Securities and Exchange Commission and experienced the macho culture of finance,  I’ve thought about for a long time — would the seemingly non-stop run of bad “masters of the universe” type of decisions be different if more women were in charge?

No one listened to the WorldCom and Enron whistleblowers.  The men in charge at those corporations, as well as at the FBI, poo-pooed the concerns that women raised.  They were dismissed out of hand and we all remember how that turned out.

Similarly, one former “sheriff” not on the current cover of TIME is Brooksley Born, the former head of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (one of the many regulators with an eye on investments) who pushed for more than just voluntary regulation of the financial derivatives market, sensing that bad things were looming.  It turns out she was right — really right.  Yet her concerns and ideas about how to avert our economic collapse in 2008 were dismissed out of hand and the men in charge at the time (with their personal connections to Wall Street) kept us on the road to what the Washington Post described as bringing the world’s trading markets, and our economy, to “the brink of collapse.”

Now as regulators are trying to put things back together to prevent another meltdown, Warren has little power as head of TARP other than to make suggestions to Capitol Hill, Schapiro is suspect because of the misbehavior of some staff attorneys, and it’s been widely rumored that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is trying to push Bair out.

I know there are plenty of people who will dismiss this idea out of hand that women would do a better job of running and regulating Wall Street.  But I’m not the only one who’s been mulling this over.  New York magazine published an article in March titled What if Women Ran Wall Street?  In January, the New York Times weighed in with Where Are the Women on Wall Street? Both tell stories of hostile atmospheres that force women out if they don’t tow the line that the big boys with a taste for risk and big money draw in the sand.  And Jessica Pieklo, another woman professionally familiar with the world of investments, says at her blog, Hegemmommy, that she’s not sure if things would necessarily be different if more women were running the financial and regulatory show, but raises this issue about the long-standing culture of Wall Street:

[If you] create a work environment that views accountability as a  weakness, [you] create a work environment hostile to women.  It’s as simple as that.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it?  Accountability.  The boys who run the financial show aren’t nearly as concerned about that as many women in the industry.  Another example of Venus and Mars?  Who knows for sure, but why not let the women take over for a while?  Things can only get better at this stage of the game.

As even Treasury Secretary Geithner recently admitted when asked about the What if Women Ran Wall Street? article, “How, you might ask, could women not have done better?”

Hear, hear!  I say, it’s time to bury the macho and the let “girls” get to work.

Images from TIME Magazine.

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