Today, The New York Times examines the rise to the top of Morgan Stanley chief financial officer Ruth Porat, who is remarkable not only for her ability to hitch herself to each of the past three decades’ asset bubbles, but also for the fact that she has not yet exited Wall Street in disgrace — despite the burden of an extra X chromosome.
To point up the difficulties Porat must be facing, The Times says a stock analyst at one point told her “Be careful in everything you do, because we all know how this ended before.”
The comment was a not so subtle reference to the last two female chief financial officers on Wall Street: Erin Callan at Lehman Brothers and Sallie L. Krawcheck at Citigroup. Ms. Callan resigned from Lehman just months before it filed for bankruptcy and is now under investigation by regulators. Ms. Krawcheck struggled as chief financial officer at Citigroup and was publicly demoted in early 2007. (She has since rebounded at Bank of America.)
Without pausing to examine whether or not a woman executive ought to be measured exclusively against other women, The Times adds that Zoe Cruz of Morgan Stanley also fell victim to the Wall Street upheval of recent years. Then, several paragraphs later, we learn that she’s worn big-girl pants before, as the point person for the Treasury Department’s seizure of government-sponsored mortgage atrocities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But The Times also notes that Porat stands out from her female Wall Street contemporaries in other, more ladylike ways. She’s persevered through a breast-cancer diagnosis, and refused to let a little thing like childbirth get between her and a call with clients.
Plus, if you do call her, no babies crying in the background:
Tony James, president of Blackstone, said Ms. Porat was available at all hours to handle issues. “She never makes you feel like you are disturbing her personal life; I don’t even know if she has one.”
Given the untold piles of men who’ve made ignominious exits from Wall Street, it’s perhaps not entirely inconceivable that the low bar The Times sets for Porat may be all that’s needed for her to succeed not just as a woman executive, but as a human executive.
mtaylor [at] observer.com | @mbrookstaylor