Bully Market, by former Goldman Sachs chief executive Jamie Fiore Higgins, is yet to be published. It comes out on September 29. But review copies are in circulation and they are already causing a stir.
Fiore Higgins left Goldman Sachs in 2016, ahead of CEO David Solomon’s new push to hire and promote women. She was not a temporary employee there. She worked for the firm in New York for 16 years, having been hired by Bryn Mawr in 1998 during a recruitment drive for liberal arts majors. Fiore Higgins was a Goldman lifer: She joined the company as an analyst and worked her way up to MD in the securities services division.
Bully Market is written like a novel and Goldman says he “strongly disagrees” with its “anonymized allegations”. Fiore Higgins does not claim that this is an entirely faithful reproduction of reality. The characters are “composite”; the quotation marks are not “verbatim”. The events are “compressed” and subject to the whims of memory, but Fiore Higgins says the book nonetheless represents her current memories and opinions of her time at Goldman. And those memories are not good.
Much has already been said about the worst elements of the book: the aggression of a male colleague transferred from a key account; the lowing when she expressed milk, the explosive anger of another (male) co-worker who was asked by bar staff to behave drunk at a customer event.
Alongside all the drama and plot points, however, Fiore Higgins paints a picture of a more heinous sexism that is characterized by the banking industry as a whole rather than being the particular domain of Goldman Sachs. Men are promoted by virtue of relationships with clients forged by alcohol and male-only entertainment sessions. Large producers are protected and immune to the repercussions of their behavior. The executive office has good intentions, but they get lost in the implementation. HR is toothless and beholden to its misbehaving revenue generators. Women in leadership positions are isolated and afraid to speak out in case they become the target of the next round of job cuts. People (including men) perceived to be too family-oriented are punished with promotions and bonuses.
Fiore Higgins doesn’t present herself as a saint: she takes Xanax; she drinks; and she is having an affair with a colleague. She doesn’t describe all of Goldman’s men as bad, either: the MD she’s having an affair with is caring and charming (though he seems reminiscent of the male lead in 50 Shades of Grey). But she’s a hardworking foreigner from an immigrant family who comes to Goldman through hard work and is promoted through her own backlog of clients. She is a mother of four with a stay-at-home husband and works to support her family. In theory, the company should have helped and protected her.
It’s still possible that Goldman did. Some women (eg Katie Koch) are thriving at Goldman, and Fiore Higgins’ allegations have not been investigated by a court. Not only does Goldman disagree with them, but it insists it has a “zero tolerance policy for discrimination or retaliation against employees who report misconduct.” This contrasts with Fiore Higgins’ claim that when she reported the public assault of a male colleague in confidence, he was informed and quickly added some of his misogynistic confidants as assessors in his next assessment; his grades plummeted.
When Fiore Higgins finally left Goldman (after waiting to collect two more bonuses), it wasn’t to join another bank. In testament to the nature of the industry-wide issues, she hasn’t tried to perpetuate her career in a more accessible place. Instead, she left the bank altogether. “I have never known a doctor who left for his family,” she told her husband. “License, yes; went to a competitor, yes; but never just gone.
Fiore Higgins has spent five years writing. Last August, she became a professional coach. Banks that want to advocate for women in the workplace might want to use her services. However, it seems unlikely that Goldman would want to be one of its clients.
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