The Ties That Bind: Could mandatory arbitration agreements be the real reason women on Wall Street have only advanced so much, despite the never-ending stream of gender diversity facts, figures and resolutions over at least a decade? Maureen Sherry, a former Bear Stearns managing director, says most new Wall Street hires sign agreements to settle potential job disputes out of court, which have bound the many women who file gender inequality and harassment complaints to secrecy. In Sherry's experience, their cases go to arbitration, and they sign nondisclosure agreements and take settlement checks "too meager to hurt [the company] and too useless to root out the problem … Another case closed. Another brilliant woman's career on Wall Street ended," she says. Sherry is the author of the forthcoming book Opening Belle, a comedy about a woman juggling family life and a Wall Street career in 2007 (which Reese Witherspoon is adapting for the big screen).

Equal Representation: Société Générale has the highest representation of women on bank boards at 50%, according to research by New Financial, a research firm in London. Nathalie Rachou, former Credit Agricole banker turned CEO of fund manager Topiary Finance, and Alexandra Schaapveld, a former ABN Amro Bank executive, are among the seven women on the 14-member board. SocGen topped the rankings of 20 surveyed banks but was bested by Swedish pension fund Forsta AP-fonden, where women comprise 63% of the board, in the cross-sector rankings.

The 21%: On Monday Morgan Stanley announced a new class of 156 managing directors — 33 of whom are women. That's 21% of the class, which Bloomberg News says is "roughly unchanged from last year."

Patience is a Virtue: How can banks improve their boys' club reputations? Anne Finucane, Bank of America's vice chairman and global chief strategy and marketing officer, suggested in an interview in at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that banks should provide greater flexibility and better onboarding options for women returning to work from a break. She noted women tend to drop off mid-career, often when they become mothers, and — as a mother of four and stepmother to three — she urged successful new moms to persevere. "I would keep my hand in, do the best I could, do the best job given some of my personal limitations, recognize that others were going to step ahead of me and then get back in the game when I could," she said, recounting her own experience.

Too Few Good Men: Female representation is greater at companies where men are actively engaged in diversity and inclusion efforts — at every level, according to research by Mercer. But the number of men involved with gender diversity efforts is falling. About 38% of sampled organizations indicated their male employees are engaged in diversity efforts, a decrease of 11 percentage points from 2014. The role of men in moving the gender parity needle has been become one of the most topical of issues for women in the corporate workplace, as evidenced in Davos last week (where, ICYMI, just 18% of attendees were women). In financial services, women make up 20% of board members, 13% of executive committee members and 4% of CEOs, Mercer says. "There is no room for excuses in this regard," said J rg Zeltner, CEO of UBS Wealth Management, regarding the lack of women's representation at the top. "I don't think we should sit in boardrooms without women." …What now?

Role Call

PNC Financial Services has tapped Karen Larrimer to lead its retail banking division when the current head of retail, Neil Hall, retires on July 1. Larimer will also retain her current position as chief customer officer.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated Maria Vullo to fill the role of Superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services. Vullo is a lawyer at the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and previously worked for Cuomo overseeing the Economic Justice Division when he was state attorney general.

Twitter has hired Leslie Berland, who was an executive vice president of global advertising, marketing and digital partnerships at American Express, to be its new marketing chief.

Visa has hired Lynne Biggar, an executive from the media company Time Inc., to be its chief marketing and communications officer. She will join the payments giant on Feb. 1 and fill a seat on its executive and operating committees.

Catherine Flax of BNP Paribas is one of four new members of the nine-member board of directors at Blythe Masters' Digital Asset Holdings. Flax is head of commodity derivatives and foreign exchange and local markets at BNP's Americas division.

Malvern Bancorp in Paoli, Pa. promoted Karen Walter to chief operating officer. Walter, who joined the bank last year as a senior vice president, replaced Missy Orlando, who left Malvern in May.

Julia Gouw, president and COO of East West Bancorp in Pasadena, Calif., will retire at the end of March, the bank announced Wednesday, though it did not name her successor. Gouw is a repeat honoree in American Banker's annual Most Powerful Women in Banking rankings.

Beyond Banking

Senate Snow Day: Winter storm Jonas hit the East Coast last Saturday, dumping 30 inches of snow in some cities. It came and left early enough that many workers just missed an extended weekend (or just got away with one). But apparently on Tuesday morning, the Senate reconvened to an all-female session, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) observed. That included the presiding officer, Susan Collins (R-Maine), parliamentarians, floor managers and Senate pages. "Something is genuinely different — and something is genuinely fabulous," she said.

Seen and Not Heard? Researchers have observed that most of the Disney princesses across the years aren't doing much of the talking in their own stories. Disney gave the three "classic" princesses (Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty) at least half the dialogue in their films, but from 1989 to 2009 — much of which is considered the golden age of princess films — all of the dialogue in princess movies was male-dominated. The linguists that unveiled this trend, Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer, also noticed that whereas princesses' positive reinforcement was focused on beauty in earlier years, it became more and more about their character and abilities as time went on. A response in Time points out that context and the quality of what characters say is just as important as their collective speaking time.

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