Challenges Women Face in Investment Banking Jobs

The long hours and constant pressure of working as a junior analyst at an investment banking job can wear down the most determined young banker. The pressure is even greater on young women, writes Nina Godiwalla in a new book entitled: Suits: A Woman on Wall Street,” recently published by Atlas.

In it, she details many of the excesses of Wall Street firms, along with the rampant gender discrimination that women face and which prevents all but a handful of women from reaching senior executive levels.

Godiwalla talks about the old-boy network that still thrives in large investment banks. “Part of it is a class thing. A lot of the people around me had grown up talking about their private schools, summer camps, country clubs. A lot of times people like to exchange information about their lives – whether they’re going to St. John or St. Maarten this year – and that’s challenging when you don’t have that background,” she said in an interview with DealBook during her recent book promotion tour.

It points out a key aspect of landing that elusive investment banking job. “I don’t think people intentionally tried to make me feel excluded. But so much of this business is about relationships. When we recruit, we call it “fit,” which basically means, “Do I get along with this person?” And a lot of the time, if you have common friends or went to the same private school as somebody, it makes it much easier to get along,” Godiwalla said.

Investment banks have not done the best job at creating an environment where women and minorities feel welcome, Godiwalla says. She cites instances where women have been pulled off of major deals on a client’s whim and senior management at the bank went along with the request. The glass ceiling for executive level positions still exists. And Godiwalla feels that many young professional women of her generation may not have the patience to deal with these attitudes today, when there are so many other career options out there.

What advice does she give a young person hoping to enter investment banking today? Go into the experience with your eyes wide open. When you take an investment banking job, you will be making sacrifices in other areas of your life. If you know what all that is in advance, you may be better prepared for the demands of the job. “That’s the message of this book: I’ll tell you what I went through, and if you’re willing to do that, if you can navigate it better than I did, then more power to you.”

Are you a woman working in investment banking? What advice would you give? Add your comments below.

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