For women, this is the best of times and the worst of times. A woman is closer than a woman has ever been to the most powerful job in the world, yet this same woman’s body parts are dissected and put into a KFC chicken dinner in a display of utter disrespect. How can these two realities coexist? The answer may lie in the tale of two bankers.
John LeFevre, author of Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion-Dollar Deals, is a bad banker and he has just offered baby banker Justin a full-time job on his trading desk. But Justin has to toughen up first. He has to make a PowerPoint slide. “Do you think you can handle that?” LeFevre’s colleague Andy asks. Justin tentatively nods his head.
” I want you to take a survey of the guys on the trading floor–only the guys. Then I want you to chart it up, make a one-page PowerPoint summarizing the results, then present it to us. Here’s the survey question you are going to answer for me: There are five women in the credit sales team. Rank them in order of most f*ckable.” ~ excerpt from Straight to Hell, John LeFevre
The five women have nicknames based on their physical features such BF for Butter Face and Wally (a playful derivative of walrus) who is “about ten weeks of dedicated anorexia away from being hot”. Justin goes about his job and is mostly well received except for the pussies who find his survey question inappropriate.
To the author’s surprise, Roo (derivative of Kangaroo due to her FUPA) finishes first, and Wally second. An in-depth analysis of the results reveals that in fact Roo would be a ‘hate-f*ck’ and therefore not a valid measure of her true f*ckability. Making an adjustment for his hateful dynamic, Roo and Wally are placed in a statistical tie, the presentation is shredded and the group goes out for some celebratory debauchery.
Justin is pleased with himself. He passed the test. The torch has been passed to a new member of the banking team.
That was way back in the dark ages of 2015. This is 2016 and For the Love of Money by Sam Polk is the latest addition to the bad banker memoir genre. Whereas John LeFevre was addicted to booze, drugs and women, Sam Polk was addicted to food, booze, drugs, women and then he became addicted to money. Unlike LeFevre who remains an unrepentant bad banker from beginning to end when he retreats to wife, kids and golf course because he realizes his job is killing him, Polk displays self-awareness, vulnerability and a desire to be a good person that makes him a likeable bad banker. He quit his multi-million dollar Wall Street job to run two nonprofits that fight poverty-driven obesity. Other than taking a vow of poverty and chastity, a bad banker can’t get much more repentant than that.
Although the narrative arcs of two tales are wildly different, the two books corroborate each other in their depiction of a frat boy culture on Wall Street where greed rules and misogyny is its wingman. It’s no surprise that no woman has ever been the chief executive of a major investment bank. Polk wrote about the entrenched sexism of Wall Street in the recent New York Times essay “How Wall Street Bro Talk Keeps Women Down“. He regrets not speaking up for women, but his career advancement depended on being liked, and calling out colleagues for sexism gets you treated like a woman. Sexism is the glue that bonds the men together and, more importantly, excludes half the population as serious competition for the best jobs.
Both Straight from Hell and For the Love of Money give us an insider’s view of a world rarely seen unless it erupts into a lawsuit. Both books can trace their lineage to the first bad banker memoir, Michael Lewis’s Liar’s Poker. Lewis thought that he had written a cautionary tale, but the Wall Street life he presented was too glamorous, the game too much fun and the characters too delightfully eccentric.
What woman wouldn’t love to work with a character like The Piranha?
Liar’s Poker became a how-to book for scores of budding bankers including both John LeFevre and Sam Polk. It’s possible that LeFevre’s book that celebrates the joy of unbridled bro will become the playbook for the next generation of Wall Street players. It’s even possible that, in spite of its undercurrent of suffering and twelve-steps of recovery vibe, that Polk’s book could be read as a how-to-make-love-to-money book.
Interpretations may vary, but the lesson the bad banker memoirs have for women is clear: we can lean in all we want, but women will not get anywhere in business as long as the culture wants us to bend over.
About the Author: Who cares about the author when there are bad banker books to read. Straight to Hell and For the Love of Money should be required reading in all business schools and women’s studies departments, and would make for a lively co-ed book club paired with tequila shots and pink ladies.
” I’d like to bend her over the table, give her some meat.” The managing director roared. “What’s wrong Sam?” said the client, noticing I wasn’t laughing. I forced a smile and said “Nothing.” The managing director ordered another round. In the cab home I was furious. I should have spoken up, but I hadn’t. ~ excerpt from For the Love of Money, Sam Polk
Come on guys. Say something.
This article was written by Lynne Everatt