October 25, 2012

Wall Street Woman

Students, staff and alumni joined Melissa Fisher, author of Wall Street Women as she told the story of the first generation of women to establish themselves as professionals on Wall Street. Since these women, who began their careers in the 1960s, faced blatant discrimination and barriers to advancement, they created formal and informal associations to bolster one another's careers. In this important historical ethnography, Melissa S. Fisher drew upon fieldwork, archival research, and extensive interviews with a very successful cohort of first-generation Wall Street women. She described their professional and political associations, most notably the Financial Women's Association of New York City and the Women's Campaign Fund, a bipartisan group formed to promote the election of pro-choice women.

Fisher charts the evolution of the women's careers, the growth of their political and economic clout, changes in their perspectives and the cultural climate on Wall Street, and their experiences of the 2008 financial collapse. While most of the pioneering subjects of Wall Street Women did not participate in the women's movement as it was happening in the 1960s and 1970s, Fisher argues that they did produce a "market feminism" which aligned liberal feminist ideals about meritocracy and gender equity with the logic of the market.

Photo: Melissa Fisher

Melissa Fisher

Ms. Fisher photo by Gianna Biscotini

Melissa Fisher is a cultural anthropologist who writes on finance, feminism, and the workplace. Her second book, Wall Street Women (Duke University Press, 2012), tracks how the first generation of Wall Street women simultaneously built professional careers in finance while constructing market feminisms (1956-2010). She is working on a third book about gender, sexuality, diversity, and inclusion in finance and film. Based on fieldwork in the United States and Europe, it focuses on how social movements (such as Me Too) shape individual careers as well as organizational life and policymaking.