Sunday, July 17, 2011
A WOMAN ON WALL STREET- A BOOK REVIEW
SUITS: A WOMAN ON WALL STREET : NINA GODIWALLA : ATLAS & CO : PAGES 352 : PRICE : $ 24/:
It is a memoir on the author’s two years’ stint at one of the topmost investment banks in the world - Morgan Stanley. It is a saga of the trials and tribulations of a young woman interning in Wall Street. Equipped with four cheap suits and two pairs of Payless shoes, she makes her beginning and by sheer hard work and performance she gets an offer in the coveted Corporate Finance Division on the completion of her internship. It is an insider account of the masochist culture in the world of investment banking and the extreme biases against women.
A decade earlier, Michael Lewis had written a similar book on the goings-on at Salmon Brothers and how their cigar smoking, high-flying executives fraternized among themselves forming an exclusive club and bullied the others. After interning with J P Morgan for a short period, the author joined Morgan Stanley on a two-year scholarship programme. It was a high-stress and male-dominated work ambience.
Nina is one of three children of Zorastrian immigrants from India (Parsis) who settled in Houston, Texas. She was driven by a burning ambition to succeed and prove her worth and win the respect of her father. This book gives an alternate view of children growing up in a Parsi household while the debate over “Tiger Mother” is still raging. She describes her grandmother’s cooking in delicious and mouthwatering detail. A brilliant student who walked into the world of high finance so to say, found the office atmosphere stifling and disgusting due to overtones of gender bias and class consciousness. Unable to accept such an environment, she walked away from her job to pursue her dream. Not that she did not know of what lay in store for her when she accepted the Morgan Stanley offer. She had heard and read all the horror stories from middle-aged women who bitterly complained on how they were sexually harassed; even ordered to wear short skirts. But things were changing as it was not easy anymore to get away with harassing co-workers. However, inappropriate behavior still prevailed and to add salt to the wounds, these high-falutin bankers were callous as well.
Though brought up by parents who insisted on hard work, long hours of study and holding the Parsi culture, the author did not exactly fit the mould. She was in a way a rebel. She dated and even brought a blind date home during her New York days. She drank but now she has reduced it as she has a baby. The irony is that she is married to an investment banker but he understands the fat-boy culture. Nina has started her own company which offers stress-reduction courses to professionals. Her rich experience of dealing with the stress in the almost all-male culture in Morgan Stanley must be holding her in good stead. The book is a gripping read. It is funny and heartwarming. There is a strong message. Ask yourself what are you working for. Is it worth it? Money is not the only goal.