A car containing a female managing director, a female executive director and a female director from three different banks on Wall Street is driving out to the countryside for the weekend. None have children. Coincidence? Maybe not.
"The longer I work in banking, the more that I feel that I'm being made to make a choice: the ability to conceive, or the opportunity to become an MD," one investment banking VP complained on eFinancialCareers. "My male colleagues don't have this dilemma."
Men in banking (and men in general) might well disagree, particularly as banks like Goldman Sachs move to equalize parental leave, but the senior women in the car say having children too soon as a woman in finance is still an issue.
"The right time to have children [in finance] is when you are senior enough and wealthy enough to hire lots of nannies and housekeepers, and to have a house husband a la Helena Morrisey (ex-Newton CEO)," says one, who's a director in the asset management division of a major bank. Her companion, an executive director in a sales role, suggests that before having a baby as a woman in finance you need to be at least in your early 30s and at least a director and then that you need to spend your (short) maternity leave checking-in with clients. - If not, you risk losing accounts to whoever covers them while you're away.
Conversely, other women in the industry suggest managing directors are already too senior to take time out for procreation. Another female vice president in another investment banking industry team in London, says it's too risky for a woman to start a family when she's an MD: "The men will get onto your accounts." She believes the best time to have children is when you're a junior director: you're established, but you still have time to build upon your profile after maternity leave. Don't have children at vice president (VP) level: the mountain ahead remains high and your inclination to tackle it will dissipate with nappies and nighttime feeds. - "The women who have babies when they're VPs don't come back."
Of course, banks do want women to come back. And many parents do make it work, irrespective of the point at which they take time out. You can have children as an associate and find a generous grandparent to help ("I know someone in management who had a baby in their late 20s," says an equity researcher. "That's a risk - everyone's super-competitive and they're cutting the lowest on the totem pole every year.")
"It's always hard to find the time for children," says a male MD. "- I had my first when I was a first year associate and my third when I was a senior associate," he adds. "I was at the office seven days a week all that time. I'm not sure how we coped."
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