I’m faced with a chicken-or-the-egg scenario whenever I talk to women in finance. Suffice it to say that I struggle a great deal to hold a decent conversation with any of them.
On the one hand, I’m disappointed to discover that perhaps I am intimidated by successful women. Call it chauvinism, narcissism, or chivalry—maybe it’s some combination of all three—but for whatever reason I tighten up when the girl says, “I work at a hedge fund” or “I’m a capital investor”.
At that point, I have flash images of her picking up the tab for my dinners, buying me drinks, picking me up at my place in her car, and asking me to move in with her. And I have to admit, it bothers me.
I thought I was above it, but clearly…that’s not the case.
But that’s not the whole story. There’s the other side to this as well.
On several occasions, I’d be talking to finance girl, and eventually she’d ask me what I do. I’ve told several variations of the same thing, but when all the clever posturing is done…I’m a student. Not a lot of creative ways to hide the fact that I’m more broke than Lehman Brothers.
But on every one of those occasions, as soon as the word student escapes my mouth, she loses any and all interest. It’s even worse when I mention that I’m studying education.
I’ve heard of pay-to-play schemes, but this is ridiculous. Is this for real??
At first, I thought it was just coincidence. The first two girls…maybe they were just shallow materialists. But as I’ve come to encounter more and more financially successful women, I sense the same alarming trend. The conversation dies as soon as they find out that I make less money than Gandhi.
So again. Chicken or the egg? Am I the typical male ego-head, threatened by successful women? Or are women just as superficial as men when it comes to the kwan.
Is the measuring stick hers or mine?
To contextualize this a bit, let me share an example.
Last week, I was invited to a happy hour at an upscale, midtown bar.
I get there, and immediately, I know that I’m out of my league. I was a J.Crew pilgrim in the unholy land of Versace.
The women, dressed head (Christian Dior) to toe (Jimmy Choo) in work suits. Power suits.
I was a fascinated outside observer as I witnessed the young professional mating ritual. Small talk, martinis, investment portfolios, tie clips, big strong laughs and big strong bankers.
What was I doing here?
Still, you never want to make presumptions about people. The quest to find a socially compatible finance woman is like looking for a stripper with a heart of gold. Rare, but men continue to dream.
That’s when I heard the faint murmurings of the word “UCLA” somewhere to my right.
“Who went to UCLA?” I asked.
“Me!” said a particularly beautiful lady of finance.
A quick lively conversation ensued. I did my best to stay away from the What do you? questions in the vain hope that she would do the same.
But like clockwork, she came out with it first:
“So what are you doing in New York?”
“Oh, I’m just trying to experience the city while I’m still young.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea. What do you do?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like job. Where do you work?”
“Oh, I’m actually at Columbia.”
“Oh, you work there?”
“No, actually. I’m a grad student finishing up this summer.”
“Oh I see…”
She begins to scan the room in an attempt to find someone else to talk to. A little annoyed, I respond:
“How about you? Where do you work?”
“So you’re the one who’s been defrauding me out of my money.”
That’s about the time she picked up and left.
So…which is it? Was I out of my league or was she being superficial?
It clearly has nothing to do with my obvious wit and charm