Once upon a time, there was a place called "Wall Street," where the best and brightest were lured by free market liberty, power and influence, and the best compensation the world has ever seen.
Until now. Because every day, and in every way, the financial and political world is being given undeniable evidence that there's a new "shining city on the hill." And that "city" is Silicon Valley.
Today, the evidence was clearer than most days because the person many believe was the most powerful woman on Wall Street announced she's going west to become the new CFO of Google. Morgan Stanley CFO and Executive Vice President Ruth Porat had been leading her firm's role in the tech boom for almost 30 years before she announced today that she's going to join that boom on the front lines at Google.
Porat hasn't just been a major player in the financial world. Her political clout has been formidable as well. She was a key supporter of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and was reportedly considered by President Obama to fill the then-open Deputy Secretary of the Treasury post in 2013. But Porat reportedly turned that down, at least in part, because of what she saw as the ugly confirmation process for former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.
If Porat really did rebuff overtures from President Obama, then her move to Silicon Valley truly becomes even more logical. Top earners and doers like Porat aren't bucking Wall Street just for the better money or growth potential in Silicon Valley. They're doing it because the regulatory and political pressure on the tech sector is still tiny compared to what the financial industry has to deal with all over the world. People like Porat can support and vote for Democrats all they want, but they didn't get where they are by worrying about quasi-socialist nonsense like income inequality and anti-corporatism.
Yes, there is growing government scrutiny of companies like Google when it comes to privacy and security issues. But Silicon Valley salaries and bonuses are almost never mentioned by progressive icons like Elizabeth Warren. California Attorney General Kamal Harris doesn't keep tabs on and criticize tech sector bonuses like the last few New York State Attorneys General have. The list of relative passes Silicon Valley gets compared to Wall Street goes on and on. Porat would be a fool to ignore all those advantages and she apparently hasn't.
And there's one more advantage: Silicon Valley has a gender problem. It's far behind Wall Street when it comes to female representation in its executive suites and boardrooms. Porat is a pretty big deal in New York, but in Silicon Valley she will stand out even more and potentially command lots more compensation than most men ever could. Everyone knows Porat is a dream hire regardless of her gender, so the fact that she is a woman is an added bonus for an industry facing regular charges of sexism.
Last week, I pointed out that the Intel Science Talent Search proved that this new generation of young people is a great argument for the belief that Silicon Valley is becoming the new center of free market capitalism, innovation, and now, education. Now, Porat's move proves the grown-ups are getting the message too.