Jamie Fiore Higgins’ book “Bully Market” exposes her time on Wall Street.
Most have heard about the parties and the lavish client dinners running up five-figure bills but what about the backroom comments about ‘tit size’ and ‘ass shape’? Or the stuffed toy cow that appeared on a desk after a worker gave birth and started using a lactation room for breastfeeding?
Earlier this week, Jamie Fiore Higgins released a book called “Bully Market: My Story of Money and Misogyny at Goldman Sachs” with Simon & Schuster. In it, she tells what ultimately pushed her to leave behind an $875,000-a-year job after spending 18 years on Wall Street.
Fiore Higgins worked in a division that facilitated deals between clients looking to lend their stock to hedge funds to short and was one of very few women to reach the title of managing director.
The book is full of zingers about the rampant sexism Fiore Higgins says she observed during her time at the storied investment firm. In one excerpt, she recalls male colleagues deciding on the women they should feature in the firm’s promotional booklet.
“Let’s throw some quantitative analysis on this,” an anonymized colleague named “Jerry” is reported to have said. “[…] I want tit size, ass shape and leg length.”
Other sections describe Fiore Higgins waking up at 4:30 a.m. for the commute to Wall Street from New Jersey and popping Xanax to deal with the stress, being made to feel like an outsider for growing up lower-income, and office parties fueled by substances and sex.
“What really pushed me was facing the fact that my infidelity could cost me everything,” Fiore told TheStreet. “When I was carrying on with my boss and my daughter called, I was like ‘What am I doing?'”
Fiore Higgins talked to TheStreet about her time at Goldman Sachs. This interview has been updated for length and clarity.
The Street: How important was money to you then and how important is it now? You joined Goldman Sachs’ rigorous training program at 22 in 1998 after your family pushed you into getting a high-paying job. In the book, your mother even says that “we didn’t take out loans to pay $35,000 a year for you to get a $20,000 job.”
Fiore Higgins: Money for me has always been about security and being able to take care of the people I love and myself. A safe place to live, food to eat, healthcare, education. When my parents pushed me to Wall Street, it was really just to be able to take care of my family of origin and family that I created. And it’s no different now.
As an industry, finance is unique in the way that it attracts both those of generational wealth and being born into it and those who see finance as a fast track into a high income bracket. You position yourself as an outsider to this culture.
Fiore Higgins: 100%. The majority of the people I encountered, this was in their blood. They were familiar with the stock market, they were familiar with high finance, they were familiar with the business world. There were also people who may not have started out knowing all this stuff but got caught up in the lifestyle. It really kept them coming back for more and staying.
I never lived the lavish lifestyle, ever. I never bought the bags, I never bought the shoes, I never bought the car. I still drive an old minivan and, when I had to get new pair of shoes for the Today Show, I went to DSW instead of Nordstrom.
In the book, you portrayed the sexism as pervasive and deeply ingrained in the Wall Street culture. What ultimately pushed you to leave?
Fiore Higgins: What really pushed me was facing the fact that my infidelity could cost me everything. When I was carrying on with my boss and my daughter called, I was like “What am I doing?” They didn’t call my “Sister Jamie” for nothing. I really started off with simple values and [a love of] family. I would have been the last person you would ever suspect to be taking Xanax like they were Tic-Tac. I couldn’t just quit cold turkey but that was the moment when I really decided to make a plan and leave.
You gave up quite a bit of stock and equity when you left.
Fiore Higgins: Yeah. The way the compensation worked at Goldman then was that a portion of your compensation was in stock with vesting schedules. I left probably three years worth of compensation because every year you get stock and some of it vests in a a year, in two years, in three years. But I couldn’t stay anymore. Once I got that last bonus, I was done.
Did a lot of the sexism become more apparent when you became a parent? I hate to ask you the “career or family?” question but you have four kids and talk about everything from breastfeeding discrimination to how finance is not conducive to motherhood.
Fiore Higgins: It was not even just the hours I worked but even the fact that I was told not have pictures of my kids on my desk. I was told to cut the class mom role and become a commercial killer. I hardly saw my kids in that period but it was almost like I had to pretend they didn’t exist in order to fit in. It was really frustrating to me because I couldn’t have pictures of them on my desk and yet other people could have pictures of themselves at a golf tournament.
My first two kids are twins and that was when I bought the pump and signed up for the lactation room and all that stuff. HR told my boss so that he could support me but instead he was like “yeah, you’re going to have to make up the time.” And my other colleagues looked at me like it was unbelievable. Every time I went out, they would moo and there was the stuffed cow [found on her desk.] It was pretty terrible.
A lot has changed between ‘Fearless Girl’ (a statue across from NYSE meant to represent women’s struggles in the industry) and when you first started out. Do you feel that women starting out in finance today have more or fewer opportunities?
Fiore Higgins: Just since Wednesday [the book came out on August 30], I’ve gotten a hundred messages from women currently in the thick of it saying not much has changed. Opportunities are still being given to the men rather than the women and you need to assimilate and look and act like the people in the glass offices in order to succeed. But I do think #MeToo and other social movements pushed some things to improve […] even if a lot if it is smoke and mirrors.
But I do think this new generation of employees are expecting more than I did. One of the big themes in my book is about how I didn’t stand up and advocate for others. Do I think large organizations should really take those excellent talking points and translate them into more concrete, direct action? Yes. But I also think people need to do a better job at advocating for both themselves and for each other.
Goldman Sachs issued a press statement in which it said that it “strongly disagreed with Ms. Higgins’ characterization of Goldman Sachs’ culture and these anonymized allegations.”