Boys' clubs

20 years after “boom-boom room” lawsuit, it’s still tough for women on Wall Street

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Twenty years ago this month, 23 women came together to file a major class-action lawsuit against Wall Street brokerage house Smith Barney, claiming widespread sexual harassment and pay discrimination. Close to 2,000 women ended up joining the complaint which became known as the “boom-boom room” suit, borrowing the name of a seedy sounding party room in the basement of a Smith Barney branch in New Jersey.

Pamela K. Martens, one of the lead plaintiffs, once visited the room, only to have a supervisor grab her and kiss her on the mouth. The boom-boom room suit brought many such examples of bad behavior to light. After Smith Barney paid out $150 million in awards and settlements, other Wall Street companies were quick to create anti-harassment training and avenues for employees to report abuses, as well as take aim at recruiting more women.

But 20 years on, many women in the industry say things still need changing.

“You may no longer have strippers coming for afternoon entertainment, but that doesn’t mean you are treated as an equal,” Anne C. Vladeck of the New York employment law firm Vladeck, Raskin & Clark told The New York Times. “It’s not quite as blatant as what went on in the boom-boom room, but it’s still there in a way that makes it very hard for women to succeed. Companies on Wall Street are just not changing.”

In a complaint that is ongoing, a former Barclays Capital sales executive alleges a similar incident to Marten’s at a 2011 conference in Bogotá, Colombia. More broadly, the Times article notes that last year “women filled 31 percent of jobs in the ‘securities, commodities and financial services sales agents’ group tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but they earned only 52 cents for every dollar that men made, according to a study released last month by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington.”

To compare, in other industries, women make an average of 79 cents for every dollar men make.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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