The Real Reason The Ina Drew Controversy Is Bad For Women
12:41 pm, May 14th | by Amy Tennery
Heads are rolling at JP Morgan today, after a regulatory filing revealed the firm suffered a $2 billion trading loss. Yes, losing (slightly less than) three times the amount The Avengers hauled in during its opening weekend gets people talking. And since the person in charge of this particular loss at JP Morgan was a woman, the chatter is at a near-cacophony.
And, as you may have heard, Drew was one of the “top women on Wall Street.” In fact, you might have seen her called that a lot. She’s been called “one of the highest-ranking women on Wall Street,” one of the “top women executives,” really.
One site referred to Drew as “Female boss of Voldermort [sic] trader.” “Female boss.” As opposed to a normal, regular ol’ boss.
With this in mind, we can’t help but wonder: Is it really fair to treat this scandal as the downfall of a “female titan” of business? Put simply, when is gender relevant in a scandal? And is it relevant here?
Were this an executive of any other non-majority on Wall Street (i.e., anyone who doesn’t fit the middle-aged, male WASP archetype) would this discussion be framed the same way? Take that “Female boss” headline, for example, and substitute in some other identifier (of race, sexuality or otherwise — take your pick). Even the thought of seeing that in publication is highly uncomfortable. And it shouldn’t happen. Being outnumbered on Wall Street doesn’t mean it’s your job to be spokesperson or a figurehead.
I recognize, of course, there’s a hitch in this line of thinking. The whole reason I’m writing about Drew is because she’s a woman — and this is a website about women in business and politics. But we’re not trying to have it both ways. While celebrating gender milestones and accomplishments have their place, putting greater significance on a downfall because involves someone “outside the norm” is clumsy and wrong-headed. She’s an executive who made a series of apparently catastrophically bad calls. End of story.
By many accounts, Drew loved to take risks on the job — which is precisely what makes her an outlier among many women in business. (Here’s the part in which I defensively trot out statistics proving how great women, on the whole, are as business executives.) Numerous studies show women are far less likely than men to take risks while investing. Women are also less likely to make reckless gambles on the job. In terms of stereotypical Wall Street behavior — the kind that got us into the original mess in 2008 — her’s was right in line. Drew reached the top because she fit in, not because she stood out.
There’s real, insidious problems with framing the Drew news around the “female exec downfall” narrative. Holding up her gender as relevant to the story of her failure undermines the (small handful) of women who are making it.