In the book, you portrayed sexism as ubiquitous and deeply rooted in Wall Street culture. What finally drove you to leave?
Fiore Higgins: What really pushed me was the fact that my infidelity could cost me everything. When I went ahead with my boss and called my daughter, I thought, “What am I doing?” They didn’t call my sister for nothing. I really started with simple values and [a love of] family. I would have been the last person you would ever suspect would take Xanax like they were Tic-Tac. I couldn’t just quit cold turkey, but that was when I really decided to make a plan and leave.
You gave up quite a few stocks and shares when you left.
Fiore Higgins: Yes. The way the compensation worked at Goldman was that some of your compensation was in stock with vesting schedules. I probably left three years worth of compensation because every year you get stock and some of it gets acquired in a year, in two years, in three years. But I couldn’t stay anymore. When I got that last bonus, I was done.
Did much of the sexism become more apparent as you got older? I hate to give you the “career or family?” ask you have four kids and talk about everything from breastfeeding discrimination to how finances don’t help motherhood.
Fiore Higgins: It wasn’t even just the hours I worked, but even the fact that I was told there were no pictures of my kids on my desk. I was told to scrap the class mom role and become a commercial killer. I barely saw my kids during that time, but it was almost like I had to pretend they didn’t exist to fit in. It was really frustrating for me because I couldn’t have pictures of them on my desk and still other people can 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 sort of thing. HR told my boss so he could support me, but instead he said “yes, you’ll have to catch up with time.” And my other colleagues looked at me as if it was unbelievable. Every time I went out they blew and there was the cuddly cow [found on her desk.] It was pretty awful.
A lot has changed between “Fearless Girl” (a statue opposite NYSE that is meant to represent women’s struggles in the industry) and when you were just starting out. Do you think 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 had a hundred messages from women who are in the middle of it right now saying that not much has changed. Opportunities are still being given to the men instead of the women and you have to assimilate and look and act like the people in the glass offices to succeed. But I do think #MeToo and other social movements have improved some things […] even if it’s a lot if it’s smoke and mirrors.
But I do think that this new generation of employees expects more than I do. 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 really need to seize those excellent topics of conversation and translate them into more concrete, direct action? Yes. But I also think that people should do a better job of advocating for themselves and for each other.
Goldman Sachs issued a press statement saying it “strongly disagrees with Ms. Higgins’ characterization of Goldman Sachs’ culture and these anonymized allegations.”