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3 former female execs sue Goldman Sachs

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Only on Wall Street can you make $800,000 a year and claim that you’re underpaid. But three women who used to earn big bucks at Goldman Sachs are suing because they could have earned even more if they were men.

H. Cristina Chen-Oster is one of the plaintiffs in the suit, which claims the company unfairly favors men over women. Her complaint concerning the high six-figure salary was that it was only about half of what male associates in the same position made.

As evidence, she cited a company event at a strip club to celebrate a co-worker’s recent promotion. Following the event, a married male co-worker allegedly escorted her to her boyfriend’s apartment and pinned her to a wall in the hallway and began kissing and groping her. She reported the incident the next day, but she claims in her complaint that the incident led to her experiencing “increased hostility and marginalization at the firm.”

Plaintiff Shanna Orlich, a former associate in Goldman’s fixed-income unit, complained about a male-dominated, macho culture at the firm that she says left women at a disadvantage. For example, she alleges, the office environment often featured “displays of masculinity” such as push-up contests organized by a male co-worker who was a former U.S. Navy SEAL. Orlich claims that even though she was a varsity golfer in high school, she was often excluded from company golf outings.

Lisa Parisi, a former management director of the asset management group, is the third plaintiff.

One sticking point for all of the plaintiffs is Goldman’s use of 360-degree feedback to evaluate employees.

Those evaluations are designed to balance all views of an employee’s performance instead of relying on one person’s opinion. But the women claim Goldman’s male-dominated culture skews the results. Barring a settlement, the case will now go to court.

Advice: Changing company culture can be difficult, especially when the overriding priority is profitability. The first step is recognition. Check the results of whatever evaluation system you’re using to see if certain genders, races, religions, etc., seem to suffer. Often, comparing subjective evaluations with objective measures of performance can reveal a bias.

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