Today's subject: When it comes to workforce merit, I suspect that most reasonable people would want the best person to succeed, regardless of gender.
A gender-discrimination lawsuit filed against Goldman Sachs
Why you should be indignant: A trio of female former employees allege that Goldman systematically discriminates against women. Although Goldman is taking the usual response to such lawsuits -- dismissing the case as "without merit" -- it's not exactly unthinkable that such shoddy, anachronistic behavior could exist on Wall Street and elsewhere in corporate America.
According to the suit, women are allegedly subject to smaller paychecks and fewer promotions than their male counterparts at Goldman. In addition, the investment bank's idea of worker camaraderie allegedly includes strip-club trips and golf outings.
Beyond the fact that outright discrimination is obnoxious and unethical, it may be just plain stupid -- and bad for business. A study from Bloomberg and the National Council for Research on Women last year showed that from 2000 to mid-2009, women-run hedge funds' performance averaged 9% annually, versus less than 6% among funds run by men.
The study said, "On average, women tend to be more consistent investors, holding investments longer and processing a greater level of informational detail, including contradictory data, in making decisions."
No offense, gentlemen, but part of the issue may be "overconfidence." Studies show that men tend to be more overconfident than women; one stock market-based study showed that men's overconfidence led them to make 45% more trades than women. This "excessive trading" reduced the men's net returns by 2.65 percentage points per year, as opposed to 1.72 percentage points for women.
In another knock against testosterone-laden workplaces, more scientific research shows that higher levels of the hormone lead to more risk-taking. Although we all know that a certain amount of risk-taking is definitely good in the marketplace, we've also seen what happens when too many folks take on too much risk. (Financial meltdowns, for example.) A few checks and balances couldn't hurt. Workplaces that take women seriously are a good step in the right direction.
Granted, women are increasingly prominent figures in corporate America these days. Kraft Foods
Yet problems remain, including lackluster female representation on boards of directors. According to a report by The Corporate Library, although 89% of S&P 500 companies have at least one woman serving on their boards, only 19% of S&P 500 companies have more than two.
What now: The boys' club mentality has got to go. Overconfidence and excessive risk-taking are bad for business, which means they're bad for stocks and investors, too.
A bit less golf might be in order as well. According to one of the infamous stories about Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neal, while his company struggled before its takeover by Bank of America
Scientific evidence supports the idea that a balance between the genders may help companies stay on a more even keel than they would otherwise. Shame on corporations with a man-centric mentality; investors should know that such backward-looking institutions may end up being lackluster stocks over the long run.
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