In the 21st Century we have more equality than we have ever had before with very few environments or professions being dominated by any one gender, but it wasn’t always that way. I speak about this because today I want to discuss my great friend Michelle Marquez, a woman who I met through a friendship group during my time studying at law school. Michelle was an incredibly driven girl back then and it was her dream to work on the stock exchange. Whilst these days we see women across the spectrum of the stock exchange from fraud prevention, securities commission, trading and arbitration, in those days the financial world was dominated by men. In spite of this Michelle succeeded in working for the stock exchange and faced a baptism of fire when she did. I believe it is important that we understand what ladies like Michelle went through, in order to appreciate what we currently have.
Michelle knew that she would have to work harder than everybody else in her department because of the slightest chink in her armor would give the men reason to say that women couldn’t do as well as they could. What this meant for Michelle was countless late nights and early mornings, working tirelessly in order to avoid having that accusation thrown at her. The worst thing was that all the while the men in her department were taking it easy and enjoying life, whilst Michelle was busting a gut.
The barrage of insults and sexist comments that Michelle was subjected to during those early days were horrific and I honestly don’t know how she was able to keep going into work each day with her head held high, whilst innuendos and insults were thrown her way. This of course eventually came to an end, at least in the main, but Michelle wasn’t to know that and her optimism for a brighter future was the only thing that kept her going.
Michelle’s first job on Wall Street was to watch over trades on securities and flag up any activity which appeared suspicious. Because of the close-knit operation that many traders and industry insiders had, there were numerous times where all of her hard work would be ignored, and the problem be simply brushed under the carpet. Michelle was never discouraged however, and she continued to do her job to the best of her abilities. What Michelle would do back then was to document everything that she did, in order to protect herself from any accusations that she wasn’t doing her job well, a very pressurized way of working which was yet another reason why she had to put in so many hours. Michelle was never discouraged and thanks to the passion which she had for proving everybody wrong, she persevered and eventually the landscape began to change around her, as a result of changing attitudes and the hard work of Michelle and women just like her.