Three women are suing Goldmans Sachs for gender discrimination. They claim their former employer "intentionally pays its male employees more than their female counterparts, and promotes them more frequently," arguing that a "persistent pattern of bias has resulted in an underrepresentation of women in the firm's management ranks," reports The New York Times. The three women weren't exactly low-level employees, though they say that's how they were treated: one was a Vice President, another handled retail stock investments, and a third was attempting to make it onto the trading floor. Details about the lawsuit are still coming out, but here's what the business blogosphere is already latching on to:
- 'The Women Admit That the Gender Bias Might Be Subconscious,' notes Business Insider's Courtney Comstock, who's all over this story, as she reviews the text of the suit. She also points out that "the women bringing the lawsuit moved pretty far up the corporate ladder."
- But It Certainly Looks Obvious Comstock puts together a list of "the craziest 15 ways women say they were harassed at Goldman Sachs." One of the women, Christina Chen-Oster, "wound up the only Vice President sitting with administrative secretaries." Meanwhile, "another woman, Lisa Parisi, grew the assets in her account to the same amount as a male, but was paid less." The firm attempted to reassign her away from the retail sector and "gave her the job back without explanation," when she complained. She was later told by a colleague that they had wanted to "give her sector to a newly hired male." Comstock points out the other case: "Goldman told another woman, Shanna Orlich, that she couldn't be a trader ... But her male equal, who did push-up contests with the traders, was welcomed onto the trading floor."
- Then There's the Actual Harassment Now we "get to the good stuff," as Comstock puts it. Bess Levin of Dealbreaker summarizes it neatly in a single sentence: "while the women of Goldman Sachs are apparently not excluded from company outings to topless bars, which would be really unfair, they are treated to some unwanted touching afterward that it's not clear their male counterparts are offered." The topless bar was part of a company-sponsored "dinner for a male employee who had just been promoted to Managing Director," according to the section of the suit Levin includes. Chen-Oster was allegedly groped by a male colleague who, the "next morning ... apologized profusely," asked her not to tell anyone, and then told his friend, their joint supervisor, about it.
- The Lawyers' Statement "The gender-equality issues raised by this lawsuit are all too familiar--Goldman Sachs systematically undervalues the efforts and achievements of its female employees," says one of the women's attorneys in the press release. "This case challenges Goldman Sachs' practice of treating its talented female professionals like disposable, second class citizens," adds another.
- Goldman's Unconvincing Response New York Magazine's Chris Rovzar reviews Goldman's statement in response to the lawsuit: "'People are critical to our business, and we make extraordinary efforts to recruit, develop and retain outstanding women professionals.'" Responds Rovzar, giving, no doubt, a taste of more blogospheric reaction to follow:
Let's think about that first clause: "People" are critical to Goldman's business. It sounds very Soylent Green when you say it that way. And you know you've got a PR situation when you have to remind people that humans are an important part of your business.