What is Privilege?

I found Sheila Jeffrey’s article, Keeping Women Down and Out, disturbing for it’s content and knowing the truth in it. I was an employee at Morgan Stanley for nearly 14 years. I saw firsthand how strippers enter the workplace and the effect that can have on women in business, including myself.

The sense of privilege among males is a well-known element of this business. At happy hour there are conversations about similar or shared experiences at strip clubs that lead to eventual bonding between male coworkers. Privilege extends to those “in the know” including their assistants. The working relationship between advisor and assistant is parasitic. They feed off this privilege/power relationship dynamic while turning a blind eye to known indiscretions in exchange for job security. These assistants receive bigger bonuses, longer lunch hours, and personal perks like Fridays off in the summer. These associations have a trickle down affect that also builds a hierarchy among the assistants.

This hierarchy can also be present among partners. For example, one day my partners went out to lunch while I stayed in the office to cover market trading. When the trades settled, I called them. It was obvious by the background noise that they were at a strip club. I was not surprised that they were at a strip club during their lunch break; this type of behavior was normal. They closed the conversation by saying “You did a great job.” I was offended. This comment made it very clear to me that in a business of high powered and exceptionally well paid, not to mention extremely entitled men, as a women in business I was part of their privilege.

Entitled behavior and pushing boundaries is co-existent, and in order to keep my professional boundary, I quit my position shortly after. But in conversations with my former colleagues, the behavior is still alive and well.

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Jeffries, Sheila . “Signs .” Signs . 34.1 (2008): pp. 151-173. Print. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/588501&gt;.

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About ctr0605

GSWS G&S Fall 2012
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