How Frat Culture Dominates Wall Street

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Wall Street has long been derided as a giant fraternity, and a new Bloomberg feature suggests that the stereotype may be true. Aggressive fraternity recruitment, Bloomberg says, has created a “pipeline” that privileges frat boys and squeezes out female applicants.

After interviews with three dozen fraternity members, Bloomberg pieced together “a network whose Wall Street alumni guide resumes to the tops of stacks, reveal interview questions with recommended answers, offer applicants secret mottoes and support chapters facing crackdowns.”

Frat boys applying for highly competitive, highly paid summer internships at the top investment banking firms are often given secret codes or handshakes to signal their affiliation when interviewing. Alumni told Bloomberg that they were sent back to their fraternities on recruiting trips to give brothers the first cut of interviews ahead of other candidates.

While networking is a fixture of the job market at large, Wall Street’s soft spot for fraternities has created an especially inhospitable environment for outsiders, particularly women.

Women are virtually nonexistent on Wall Street, a disparity that led some to blame the 2008 financial crisis on Wall Street’s male-dominated, insider culture. Though some firms are more consciously developing outreach initiatives for women and minorities, the fraternity pipeline has helped preserve the industry’s skew towards men.

Indeed, research shows bankers tend to favor fraternity heads and others they see as potential drinking buddies over others with better grades. Wall Street also has its own secret fraternities known for their elite guest lists and lavish bacchanalias.

Women who have worked in finance describe an office environment rife with sexual harassment, jokes about female analysts’ attractiveness, and generalized misogyny. In an example of more insidious sexism, one billionaire alumnus of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, which has sent 3,000 men into the industry, recently explained the dearth of women by arguing that mothers can’t be focused traders because children are “emotional distractions” from the moment they latch onto their mothers’ “bosoms.”