Bro Talk Brouhaha: In this interview with the Atlantic, Sam Polk talks more about the culture on Wall Street and his experiences there, adding context to his widely read op-ed about how bro talk holds women back at work. "I think it's incumbent upon men first of all to stop hitting on or degrading the women that work for them — which goes on very often," says Polk, who published a memoir this month. "But in addition to that, to really take young women under their wing and give them the same, if not more, mentorship than the young men that it might be their first reaction to mentor." Polk's original op-ed drew letters from women in the industry endorsing his point about men's vulgar behavior toward women (largely behind their backs) and acknowledging slow progress over the years. It also prompted this op-ed in response arguing that bro talk doesn't even scratch the surface of why there aren't more women in banking. "It's not necessarily the words that hurt us. Instead, it's the sticks-and-stones cultural penalties and biases that damage, curtail and ultimately can end women's charge up the Wall Street ladder," writes Meredith Jones.
Equity Investing: The debut of "Equity" is a little more than a week away and Vanity Fair has a feature on how the film's two female producers raised the money to finance the project, largely from current and former Wall Street women (Barbara Byrne, Barclays' vice chairman of investment banking, is one of the backers). "Equity" is an indie film often referred to as the female "Wall Street," with all female lead characters, and female directors, producers and financial backers. Linda Zwack Munger, a former institutional bond saleswoman, talks about the importance of investing in a film that can send a message and incite change without being a cheerleader for women. "What I would not have invested in is a movie that tries to glorify women. 'Oh, those poor women, they never get a fair break,'" she says. "The reality is women screw women just like guys screw women and guys screw guys."
Gotta Catch 'Em All at the Local Bank: The augmented-reality mobile game Pokemon Go has taught banks important lessons about engaging customers, rewarding them and getting them in branches. It gets players to return to local landmarks without nudging them to a specific place or even promising them a specific reward (think Uber's invisible payments model). "Developers focused on creating an experience that would bridge the physical and online world in order to grip the imagination of its participants," said Michelle Evans, digital consumer manager at Euromonitor International. The game drove virtual Pokemon hunters of all ages out into the streets and to the doors of retailers and bank branches that didn't know they were secretly hiding the mythical creatures. Even Citizens Bank of Edmond Chief Executive Jill Castilla and Avidia Bank's Content Marketing Strategist Katelin Cwieka both took to social media to drum up attention for their branches.
A Branch for Women Only: Axis Bank in India has opened an all-women branch (supposedly the first in the country) offering regular banking and financial transaction services specifically to female customers. "Women play an important role in managing household savings and we believe that this 'all women branch' will help increase the participation of this segment in the banking industry," says Rajiv Anand, the bank's executive director.
Citizens Financial Group in Providence, R.I., has named Mary Ellen Baker head of business services. Baker was previously executive vice president of PNC Financial's enterprise services and before that worked at Bank of America as head of enterprise resiliency and corporate services and head of technology and operations for the consumer and small-business bank.
In Case You Missed It
Financial Health Indicators: Credit scores have traditionally been useful for helping predict the likelihood someone will repay a loan, but banks need to give customers a metric that assesses their financial health more accurately. Call it a financial health score, something that takes into account whether people keep up with their bills, put something away for emergencies and long-term goals, and have insurance coverage that protects against financial shocks. That's what the Center for Financial Services Innovation is working on. "By calculating financial health scores, providers would begin to see how an investment in improving consumer financial health could translate into an improvement in their own financial outcomes," says Sarah Parker, CFSI director. "Likewise, consumers could gain a holistic understanding of their financial health and determine the effects of the financial products they use and the financial behaviors they exhibit, rather than cobble together piecemeal measures like the credit score or account balances." It's complex, but just as we track indicators like weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and body-mass index for physical health despite there being more factors that affect physical well-being, there should be a starting point to gauge financial health, she says.
Millennial Relationship Mistakes: Digital tools may improve a bank's traditional sales process, but they should still be supplemental at most to its relationship-building strategy, if it's millennials the bank is looking to attract, argues Lauren McKenna, a sales and services officer at Blue Hills Bank in Norwood, Mass. Millennials are more financially savvy than many perceive them to be, McKenna says. Figuring out the best ways to connect with them "is no different from identifying the solutions tailored toward older Generation-Xers and even retirees," she says.
Women for Women: If underserved markets are good for inventors, could there be a boom in products aimed at women's needs? Crowdfunding platforms have been especially beneficial for female inventors and entrepreneurs pitching solutions for women, because in the male-dominated venture capital world, it can be difficult for a male investor to understand the value of a solution that does not relate to his own needs and experience. (One example is Thinx, the period-proof underwear.) Also, female-led tech projects have a 65% success rate on Kickstarter compared to 30% for those led by men, likely because women tend to support other women in online networks. So one option is to sidestep the male VCs by going straight to the underserved consumer.
Men for Women: Having daughters changes men and makes them more sensitive to gender inequity. Men have often given their female offspring more opportunities than their female partners, perhaps seeing their children as extensions of themselves, a dynamic embodied by Donald Trump, the Republican Party's nominee. Even today, many men find themselves newly appalled at sexism after having a girl, a reaction apparently not stoked by being born of a woman, married to a woman or simply seeing women as human. (Sam Polk, mentioned above, is a case in point.)
Women in Gaming: Can augmented reality games like Pokemon Go help female gamers begin to be taken more seriously? About half of the gaming population is women, according to Pew and the Entertainment Software Association. Nevertheless, in gaming there has been a tendency for men to perceive women as the minority and inferior. Women have received toxic treatment leading them to hide their true genders in a game. This dynamic started to get a lot of attention a couple years ago, when men began threatening and revealing personal information about outspoken women in the video game world. Read on for more about Pokemon Go's friendlier environment for women and how well it fits into working women's schedules. You'll also hear from those who argue the physical world has never been less misogynistic than the virtual one.
Sandberg Reconsiders: As a widow with two preteen children, Sheryl Sandberg is rethinking parts of her 2013 feminist "Lean In" philosophy. The Facebook executive now acknowledges criticism that her book didn't adequately consider the challenges of single parents.