Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The US Open kicks off, Director of National Intelligence Avril D. Haines will investigate documents found at Mar-a-Lago, and a former Goldman Sachs executive describes her challenges at the company. Have a productive Monday.
Jamie Fiore Higgins He rose to become managing director of Goldman Sachs, working at the Wall Street bank after the Great Recession. But along the way, he says he encountered sexism and discrimination. Fiore Higgins is the author of a new book: “Bully Market: My Story of Money and Misogyny at Goldman Sachs.” In the excerpt below, he describes struggling to breastfeed his children while working at the company. The characters depicted in the excerpt are composite characters referred to by pseudonyms. Goldman Sachs says in a statement: “We strongly disagree with Ms. Higgins’ characterization of Goldman Sachs culture and these anonymous allegations. We have a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or retaliation against employees who report misconduct, and all complaints are thoroughly investigated with discretion and sensitivity.”
– Market of thugs. After giving birth to twin daughters in late 2008, I had four months of family leave from Goldman Sachs. The firm policy that parents should be “off” from work during leave was bogus. The birth of my children did not end the financial crisis, so I logged into work, dialed conference calls, and talked to my colleague Pete, who was covering me, every day about the business. I felt I had to if I wanted to protect my job as a manager at global securities services and my position. Other women had, too.
I thought back to the woman who was called from the office while she was in labor, and the other who felt the pressure to return after a few weeks, her C-section scar barely healed. They didn’t want to do it, but they felt they had to, so they told their managers it was okay. And then there is my partner at the firm, Mike, who had considered a man on my team a part-time employee because he left an hour early each day and was paid accordingly. What would he think of me, after being out of the office for a third of the year?
As I prepared for my return to work, my biggest focus was finding childcare for the girls. My husband Dan, who had just started his own IT business, couldn’t take care of them, but my mother had just retired and offered to take care of them for us. Of course, I paid her: she was earning money to pay for a babysitter and, as a retiree, she needed the extra money. Also, my grandmother meant everything to me and she watched me while my mother worked. She felt so natural and appropriate for my mom to do the same for my children. Although she didn’t want to leave them, she was happy that they were in her safe hands.
Breastfeeding was my next focus. I knew from day one that I wanted to do it. Goldman had a lactation center, a floor complete with hospital-grade pumps, private lockers, a large kitchen, and 24/7 lactation consultants. I would miss the girls, but if I pumped, I knew I would feel connected to them.
A few days before my return, Mike called. “HR informed me that you signed up for the lactation rooms. That’s going to be a problem,” he said. “Don’t you want to be CEO? You have to be at your desk working, not pumping.” I sat on the sofa in my living room, while the girls slept in the double pack ‘n’ play next to me. My limbs were so heavy that I wanted to climb with them. People would die for your work, Jamie, I told myself as I bit my lip. “Yes, of course,” I told him. “That is what I want.”
“You’ll want to get home as soon as you can,” he said. “If you pump half the day, you’ll have to make up the time. You won’t see the girls at all. He was correct. On a good day, he didn’t get home until 7:00 p.m. If he had to make up pumping time, he didn’t get home until after 8:00 p.m., which meant he never saw the girls. you wake up during the week. I looked out the sliding glass door and said nothing.
The irony is that HR probably told Mike about my plans to breastfeed so he could support me, but it had the opposite effect. The most frustrating part of Mike’s call was that he knew I could have been productive while he was pumping since I would have access to a phone and my email. These decisions were not based on reason and common sense, but on Goldman’s value system.
If your values aligned with those of the men in the glass offices, you were fine. But if you had different interests, watch out. Leaving his desk to clean his wingtips was a worthwhile endeavor. Do you breastfeed your baby at home? Not that much. Those men in the offices clung to their old boys’ club values with white-knuckled fists. As long as they were in power, there was no chance that someone who looked like me, with interests like mine, could succeed there.
“So we agree?” Mike said. “No breastfeeding.”
Tears clouded my vision. “Yes, Mike,” I told him. “No breastfeeding.”
I put all my pump stuff in a plastic box and put it in my basement. I bought powdered formula and cried while mixing it. Without setting foot in the office, I had already failed my girls. I reminded myself that the purpose of my job was to support them financially. Bonds, not breast milk, did that.
Excerpt from BULLY MARKET by Jamie Fiore Higgins. Copyright © 2022 by Jamie Fiore Higgins. Reprinted with permission from Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY.
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