Why Estrogen Won’t Save Wall Street

As the (not-so) Great Recession drags on, many Americans are trying to find comfort by finding a scapegoat. This behavior, sadly, is reflected throughout our history; when there is a failure, placing blame becomes just as important as finding a solution.

A recent edition of New York Magazine asked whether or not we would be in our current recession had women dominated Wall Street. While taken seriously by many feminists, this question remains nothing more than a laughing matter for the male traders on Wall Street.

Yet, we are in one of the worst economic periods since the Great Depression, and something is responsible for leading us here. So the question has been asked: had it been the Lehman Sisters, would we be in a recession?

European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, among others, believes that “females are a bit less ego-driven and a bit more responsible than men.” Therefore, had the much more reserved and contemplative gender had a stronger voice on Wall Street, according to this logic, our economy would not be in shambles.

Women, just like men, are highly competitive; I do not believe that women care less about their careers than men, and in the cutthroat Wall Street environment, obtaining a career means taking risks that work out in your favor. Regardless of who occupies the job, male or female, the job will mold its occupant into the single-minded, ego-driven, successful trader. In this environment, avoiding risk is itself a risk to your career.

I believe that it is not who is working in Wall Street that is the source of the problem, but rather the mentality of Wall Street itself. For example, I do not believe that having female hockey players would reduce the number of injuries incurred in the game because women would be more averse to taking risks. Injuries are a byproduct of hockey, and whoever plays hockey will suffer injuries as part of the game, regardless of gender.

However, the Lehman Sisters supporters believe that there is a scientific basis for their beliefs. According to behavioral finance researchers, testosterone is responsible for gender differences that caused the Great Recession. Although both men and women produce testosterone, studies show that men produce 15 times more testosterone than women.

Is this true, though? Was it not all Americans who tried to profit from “playing” the market? Do women not want to profit in the same way that men do?

Doug Hirschborn, a peak performance coach to Wall Street traders, teaches traders how to leave emotion out of their business. If we are expected to readily assume that men are more ego-driven and reckless than women, it is reasonable to assume that women are more emotionally vulnerable and psychologically fragile than men. Following that train of thought, it appears that women may not actually be better suited for Wall Street than their male counterparts.

If we are to dismiss this characterization of women as stereotypical, offensive or inaccurate, then we must also dismiss the characterization of men as ego-driven and reckless.

Alison Fraser, director of economic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., said that, “It is really a misguided notion to focus on whether women are victims in recessions. What is important here is that all Americans are suffering, and they are suffering at every level.”

Is this really justification to begin demanding that 50 percent of new hires on Wall Street are female? Putting a quota on employment figures means that we remove any chance of hiring those who are best for the job, instead focusing on having the appropriate gender proportions.

Alexander Gura is a fourth-year political science major. He can be reached at agura@uci.edu.