Episode 28: Fighting for Change On Wall Street
Guest: Renee Amochaev
Hello, and happy summer! This week, I’m thrilled to share the story of a woman who rocked Wall Street in a major, major way. You might remember the name Renee Amochaev from news headlines. Several years back, Amochaev and three other women brought a gender discrimination lawsuit against Smith Barney, which resulted in the brokerage firm paying a whopping $33 million settlement.
Renee was inspired to seek legal action for what she said were differences in the way she was treated compared with her male colleagues. Among other things, Renee said her office was smaller and she was required to go through broker training—despite being fully licensed—while her male counterparts didn’t have to. Eventually, Renee said she came to work one day to find that her entire book of business was inaccessible, and she was told to write essays to retain her accounts. Through conversations with a couple women at the office, Renee said she discovered she wasn’t alone in her experiences.
The lawsuit was a long and tiring road, but Renee knew she wouldn’t be able to look at herself in the mirror if she didn’t speak up. Renee’s husband encouraged her to arrive in cowboy boots for her first meeting with the lawyers. (I love this, by the way, because I often wear cowboy boots to speaking engagements.) “If you’re gonna kick up dust,” her husband said, “you better wear cowboy boots.”
And boy, did she kick up a lot of dust!
In the end, news outlets from CNBC to The New York Times covered the story, and countless women contacted Renee about their personal experiences. The lawsuit, Renee says, was so much bigger than just her. “This is about future generations of women and how much they are needed in the industry,” she says.
Not only do Renee and I both hope this episode inspires listeners to speak up about gender biases in the industry, but we also hope it serves as a calling for women to take hold of their financial futures.
In closing, I’d also like to give a shout-out to all the people fighting every day for more women in the industry, including Tim Smith from the 30 Percent Coalition (see July 8th’s episode). Tim has rallied for years to increase the number of women on boards, and he and so many others are greatly appreciated.
If you enjoyed this episode, please share it and head to iTunes to post a quick review. And join me next week for a talk with Eve Ellis, who has a very interesting career history—from competitive tennis, to Web, to financial services. Have a great week!