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My Story of Money and Misogyny at Goldman Sachs
Table of Contents
About The Book
A “riveting and powerful” (Gretchen Carlson, cofounder of Lift Our Voices) insider’s account on Wall Street where greed coupled with misogyny and discrimination enforces a culture of exclusion in the upper echelons of Goldman Sachs.
Jamie Fiore Higgins became one of the few women at the highest ranks of Goldman Sachs. Spurred on by the obligation she felt to her working-class immigrant family, she rose through the ranks and saw it all: out-of-control, lavish parties flowing with never-ending drinks; affairs flouted in the office; rampant drug use; and most pervasively, a discriminatory culture that seemed designed to hold back the few women and people of color employed at the company.
Despite Goldman Sachs having the right talking points and statistics, Fiore Higgins soon realized that these provided a veneer to cover up what she found to be an abusive culture. Her account is one filled with shocking stories of harassment and jaw-dropping tales of exclusionary behavior: when she was told she only got promoted because she is a woman; when her coworkers mooed at her after she pumped for her fourth child, defying the superior who had advised her not to breastfeed; or when a male boss used a racial epithet in front of her, other colleagues, and clients without any repercussions.
Bully Market sounds the alarm on the culture of finance and corporate America, while offering clear, actionable ideas for creating a fairer workplace. Both a revealing, extraordinary look at the industry and a top Wall Streeter’s explosive personal story, Bully Market is an essential account of one woman’s experience in a flawed system that speaks to the challenge and urgency for change.
Reading Group Guide
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Jamie Fiore Higgins rose to become one of the highest-ranking women at the most prestigious of Wall Street firms, Goldman Sachs. Recruited out of college, Fiore Higgins began her career at Goldman Sachs as an analyst and eventually became a managing director, responsible for billions of dollars. Despite her skills and work ethic, she wasn’t immune to the culture of sexism, misogyny, and sexual harassment that played out over the course of her 18 years at Goldman Sachs. Her memoir, Bully Market, provides a shocking glimpse into the finance industry at its highest levels, its discriminatory practices and culture, and the challenges faced by women and people of color. Kirkus Reviews calls Bully Market “...a scathing critique of the sexist, racist, homophobic, and elitist culture pervading Goldman Sachs… A disturbing portrait of power and greed.”
TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. In the first sentence of the Introduction, the author describes the yearly bonus overnighted into her account as the “money hit” (p. viiii). How do these exorbitant bonuses keep Goldman’s employees beholden to its toxic culture? Why does the bonus fill Jamie Fiore Higgins (JFH) with a mixture of “satisfaction and shame?”
2. On page 25, JFH describes the company’s “‘Facebook of sorts’,” a small booklet with pictures of the new analysts. Jerry responds by complaining that “we can’t rank on fuckability by just a black and white picture.” How does this brazen sexism color the atmosphere of this workplace, and contribute to keeping women from being taken seriously?
3. The women at Goldman Sachs (GS) would acquire broad, traditional identities from their male colleagues, such as “slut,” “nun,” and “entitled bitch.” How do these identities serve to undermine a woman’s confidence, regardless of her education, skills, or track record?
4. Discuss the concept of meritocracy. While JFH was judged on her merits in certain circumstances, in others her accomplishments were ignored on the whims of Mike and the GS culture. Discuss the hypocrisy of the “meritocracy that Goldman claimed to be (p. 31).”
5. Early on in her career at GS, JFH receives praise from her boss, Mike, for increases in revenue that she created by working with many smaller clients, as opposed to “big whale” accounts. Yet, she asks herself, “Why couldn’t I own my own accomplishments (p. 53?”). How does her own humility hold her back from the pride she should take in her own success, and how do the more senior men in the office use condescending language, actions, and attitudes to make JFH disregard her own abilities? Discuss examples of how you’ve seen women in workplace environments put humility before pride of self.
6. Throughout the book, JFH refers to her fear of punishment should she speak out to her direct supervisor or Human Resources when she witnesses unacceptable behavior, everything from sexual harassment, racism, and even violence. How does this fear serve to perpetuate the hierarchy of male power at GS?
7. Throughout the story, it becomes clear that being a mother was a liability for JFH, as well as other female employees of GS. Discuss the many examples of how Mike and the greater culture at the firm discriminated against working mothers. What scenes were particularly disturbing, and why? How was the deck stacked against JFH once she began having children, and how did the GS culture contradict its own claims of supporting working mothers?
8. JFH is honest in admitting her complicity in the pervasive sexist and misogynistic culture at GS. Discuss the scene in which Eric assaults her when he learns JFH has gotten the promotion he thought he deserved. Do you think she should have reported Eric to HR, even after Mike dissuaded her from doing so? Why do you think so many women choose to look the other way after witnessing behavior that crosses the line into harassment and abuse?
9. Misogyny is defined as dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women (source: Oxford Languages). Discuss examples of misogyny in Bully Market, and compare these examples to your own real world experiences.
10. On page 138, JFH learns that she has been passed over for MD. Rich commands her to “not overreact;” to “Keep in mind, people will watch your reaction;” and “You need to be professional.” Do you think that Rich would have given the same advice to a male colleague being passed over for a promotion? How does Rich’s attitude play into the stereotype of the “hysterical” woman?
11. Shortly after JFH reports Justin’s racist behavior to Employee Relations (p. 205), Mike and Justin begin the process of sabotaging her career. Knowing that there was a possibility that the report wouldn’t remain confidential, JFH chose to report Justin anyway. Why do you think she was finally able to go “outside the family?”
12. How and why was JFH finally able to change her self-perceptions and find the strength to leave GS? How did years of GS’s misogynist environment warp her conceptions about herself? If JFH could be a guest at your book club, what questions would you ask her?
ENHANCE YOUR BOOK CLUB
As an extension of reading Bully Market, screen one of the following films related to the #MeToo movement, followed by a group discussion. Alternatively, members can select and screen one film independently, coming together to discuss it at the next meeting.
On the Record:
In the Epilogue of Bully Market, FH writes, “I left Goldman Sachs in 2016, before the “Me Too” movement, Black Lives Matter, and other progress we’ve made in society (p. 293).” Select a few of the following articles to read and discuss at your next book club meeting. How much has changed, and what needs to still be done to end sexism, misogyny, and sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace?
Words of Advice.
Think about your own workplace history, including personal experiences of sexual harassment. Write a letter to your younger self as you are entering the workforce. What words of wisdom would you impart?
Why We Love It
“I love Bully Market because it’s an unputdownable, firsthand account from one of the top women on Wall Street. Meet the updated Liar’s Poker, where Jamie Fiore Higgins exposes a culture of greed—fused with misogyny and racism—at Goldman Sachs, emblematic of many American workplaces where men behave badly and enforce a culture of exclusion.”
—Stephanie F, VP, Executive Editor, on Bully Market
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 30, 2022)
- Length: 320 pages
- ISBN13: 9781668001028
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Raves and Reviews
“Higgins is unafraid to, as they say, ‘go there,’ taking us into the bathroom and elsewhere for spilled breast milk, rivulets of child diarrhea and vomiting episodes courtesy of her sister, her children, herself. Indeed there is something effluvial about the entire book, as if the #MeToo movement provided her, narratively speaking, with a stiff dose of ipecac syrup. It’s gross, but propulsive, and also — in the case of a graphic miscarriage during her ferry commute, to which her boss displays a stunning but all-too-believable indifference — brave and poignant. At a time when many white-collar workers are lobbying for the right to keep Zooming in sweatpants, Bully Market is a reminder of when offices were stage sets in the sky for dark, outrageous human drama.” —New York Times
“Jamie Fiore Higgins’s Bully Market is a riveting and powerful story of one woman’s experience in finance, as she climbs the corporate ladder amidst harassment and discrimination. You might argue that this book isn’t even about Goldman Sachs, but about the behaviors and patterns we’re willing to accept across all of corporate America.” —Gretchen Carlson, acclaimed journalist, co-founder of Lift Our Voices, and female empowerment advocate
“On Wall Street, it’s unusual to make it into the club of Goldman managing directors, as [Jamie Fiore Higgins] did in 2012, and almost unheard of to tell the world what goes on there. The book will make Fiore Higgins one of the most senior people to do it.” —Bloomberg
“Jamie Fiore Higgins’s entrancing firsthand account of her time as a high-up managing director at Goldman Sachs is a breath of fresh air—not for the stories of abuse and discrimination, which are maddening—but for the overdue chance to finally bring the truth to light. With grace and precision, she shows the hypocrisy of finance and how it and other industries can, and must, change for the next generation.”
—Emily Chang, author of Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley and host of Bloomberg Technology
“Higgins recounts Goldman Sachs’ toxic work environment in jaw-dropping detail, rivaled only by the remarkable candor with which she reveals her own culpability in tolerating such behavior. A brave and vivid portrait of a destructive corporate culture and toxic sexism and the terrifying toll it took on Higgins and her family.” —Booklist
“[One of America’s leading financial institutions is rife with misogyny, homophobia, and racism, according to this] scintillating exposé…. A persuasive warning that Wall Street still has a long way to go to become a more human and equitable workplace.” —Publishers Weekly
“In her debut memoir, Fiore Higgins mounts a scathing critique of the sexist, racist, homophobic, and elitist culture pervading Goldman Sachs... A disturbing portrait of power and greed.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Bully Market is essential to understanding the power dynamics at play in one of the most influential and powerful industries in the world. It’s shocking, saddening, and infuriating by turn, but empowering in the way that it imagines what the future of the workplace can look like.”
—Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and bestselling author of The No Club and Ask for It
"Bully Market exposes the #MeToo movement's unfinished work on Wall Street and should be required reading in the Goldman Sachs C-Suite. Working women will see themselves in Jamie Fiore Higgins' seering story, cheering on the daughter of immigrants and mother of four as she overcomes misogyny and discrimination to become a Managing Director at the storied firm. From assault to punishing women for becoming mothers, Bully Market shines a bright light on Goldman's broken culture and all of corporate America's failure to keep its promises to women—and challenges business leaders to heed Higgins' call for transformative change and equality." —Meighan Stone, former president of the Malala Fund and author of Awakening: #MeToo and the Global Fight for Women's Rights
"In this engrossing book, Fiore Higgins takes us on her turbulent journey from a working-class immigrant family to an unprincipled upper echelon of Wall Street. Her personal story exposes the sickening pull of money in a society devoid of a safety net and wired for profit maximization, and the misogynistic, racist, and homophobic work environment it fuels. Bully Market is an urgent call to rectify economic systems that create extreme inequality and workplace cultures that talk a good game but remain destructive for anyone who does not 'fit the mold'." —Julie Battilana and Tiziana Casciaro, authors of Power, for All
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