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BY BARBARA FRANKEL
ONE WOMAN’S STORY OF
RACISM & SEXISM ON WALL STREET
This article was originally published on DiversityInc.com on Sept. 6, 2007
Kimberley Copeland, a talented,
bright, young black woman, was
dazzled when she received a job
offer on the revenue-generating
side of one of Wall Street’s most
prestigious investment banks.
But her excitement soon turned
to humiliation and anger as she
was subjected to racist and sexist
intimidation and harassment.
Here’s an excerpt from her
story. To read and hear her full
story, go to www.DiversityInc.
KIMBERLEY COPELAND: I
thought I was fitting pretty
well, but my first negative
interaction with middle
management actually happened about eight months
after I started. What had made my internship so positive was the access and exposure that I had to senior
management. I kind of operated with the same kind
of boldness that I did in the summer program.
I was working as a trade assistant on the floor of the
New York Stock Exchange, which was a rotation for my
program, but one day I seized this opportunity to sit
down with the senior [managing director], the director
of all of equities, to talk with him about my vision, to
tell him who I was and what sorts of things that I would
like to be doing in the firm. He was very receptive, and
he suggested that I approach my manager about doing
a rotation on the trading desk and spending some time
with senior traders and salespeople to get a different
perspective and level of exposure.
I was so excited. I went directly to my direct
manager, and I told him all about the conversation
and I asked him, “Could I have this opportunity to
rotate on the desk for a few months?” and he was
furious with me.
BARBARA FRANKEL: Because
you broke the chain of command, you went over his
head. Did they assign a mentor to you?
COPELAND: In all fairness,
they did assign a mentor
to me, and we had a lovely
dinner—once—but it didn’t
really feel like a mentoring
relationship. Those sorts of
relationships and mentoring
moments are formed more
naturally, and I didn’t have a
natural mentor in my direct
base. This was someone from
another department, in a totally
different group, senior in the firm.
It was a forced and very formal interaction.
So, this is not something that I would have
sought to discuss with her. I really thought that I
could go directly to my manager, who I thought was
an advocate for me and also someone that had my
best interests at heart, and just approach him about
this idea, but he was serious. I had disrupted the
hierarchical order by going to speak to his boss, and
he really brought me down several notches. So that
was really the first bruise to my psyche in terms of
being excited and motivated about what I was doing.
FRANKEL: Is there—or was there—at this company
any kind of employee group, either a women’s
group or a black employees’ group?
COPELAND: There was a black employees’ network
that I felt very disconnected from because the majority of the people that were in it were not producers. It
may have been helpful to have that sort of group on
the producing side, on the revenue-generating side