By Nancy Mandell, guest blogger
The soft news last week was filled with stories about how much better off the country would be if women—or at least more women—were in positions of economic influence.
On March 29, the White House and the Treasury Department co-hosted an inaugural Women In Finance Symposium that brought together female leaders in politics, business, law and academia. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner welcomed the gathering, referring to an article he’d recently read asking what the economy would be like if women ruled Wall Street.
“It’s an excellent question, but kind of a low bar,” Geithner told the illustrious women gathered in the department’s Cash Room, continuing, “How, you might ask, could women not have done better?”
Almost simultaneously, on a Website called TABB Forum, Joseph Weber, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska’s College of Journalism, expressed a similar opinion: “Researchers tell us that men are up to two-times as likely as women to be involved in fatal car crashes. This raises an interesting question: If there were more women on Wall Street, would we have fewer economic crashes?”
Weber has done his research. A study by sociologist Jennifer Schwartz showed that in 2004, more men were arrested for drunk driving than women; a researcher at the National Center for Disaster Mental Health Research showed men are less likely than women to obey traffic laws; and a study by Dana Yagil at University of Haifa suggests that while women look at traffic laws as necessary, men tend to consider them optional.
Weber goes on to question whether road behavior is likely to be mirrored in the capital markets. If findings by mutual fund giant Vanguard that men are more likely than women to sell stocks at the bottom are true, “One has to wonder,” he muses, “whether women traders are less likely to jump foolishly into bad deals or (more likely) to be guided by internal flashing yellow lights than men.”
Whether you’re looking in the C-suites of investment banks or on the trading floors of the major exchanges, women remain under-represented. At the symposium, Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren—head of the Congressional Oversight Panel monitoring the government’s $700 billion bailout of the financial system—was able to find some humor in the dearth of women peers. “The good news is there’s no line for the ladies’ room,”she said.