Patricia Riley and I sat in her small office in one of the major Wall
Street firms in midtown Manhattan. It was March 1994, the first day of
my fieldwork on the pioneering generation of women on Wall Street.∞
Patricia was one of the most senior women in global finance, a veteran
with more than twenty years in the area of research. When she first
entered the world of finance in the seventies, researchers were consid-
ered to be support staff for investment bankers and traders, helping
them make deals. But by the time of our conversation, which occurred
within a bull market, research strategists such as Patricia were part of
the ‘‘front office’’ and were among the most valued employees because
they were understood to be generating revenue for the firm. Soon Pa-
tricia and I were deep into conversation about her life, career, and why
she and other women had been so successful in finance. Her account
drew on the differences between men and women and risk taking:
I think that when women look at stocks, they have a lot more
respect for the concept of risk. This serves them well. Men are
classics. I constantly get this—they are at a cocktail party, and they
get a hot tip. If you suggest electronics, they want to buy it. But
women will sit there and say ‘‘like my family’s ira account’’ or what-
ever. The women want something conservative, something long
term, something they can hold on to for a couple of years. Mean-
while the men always want something that is going to double the
next week. I don’t know whether it is good or bad. But, in terms of
outcome, I think that women’s attitudes are better for investing.
Patricia’s version of gender difference was characteristic of the nine-
ties, when Wall Street women invoked and reframed the figure of the
Previous Page Next Page