Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Wall Street Women and Plastic Surgery

Jutta Klee | Getty Images

The Oprah Magazine has a fascinating interview with a 55 year-old anonymous CEO who admits to having a massive amount of plastic surgery.

She's very happy with her surgery, even though a lot of it seems to have been done to correct mistakes in other surgeries. Nonetheless, she seems to assign a lot of her success in life to surgical improvements to her looks.

What's perhaps most interesting, however, is how she started all of this while she was a "very successful" investment banker at a Wall Street firm. All of her success on Wall Street didn't matter. She suffered from low self-esteem because her boyfriend said "callous things" about her body.

From Oprah:

How old were you when you had the first procedure, and what got you started?

I had been in a sexless marriage for several years. After I divorced, I had a relationship with a man who said callous things about my small breasts and generous thighs. I was 24. And I thought, "No one will ever love me; I'm completely undesirable." It didn't matter that I was becoming very successful as an investment banker at a big Wall Street firm—my self-esteem was zero. And it was the lack of self-esteem that sent me to the plastic surgeon's office.

You must have been happy with the results.

Not only did my romantic options explode, but my career instantly shifted into a higher gear. I was suddenly being courted by senior partners, included in meetings with the CEOs and CFOs of current and prospective clients. I thought, "Wait a minute—I'm the same person I was before the surgeries." But now I looked like a bombshell in addition to being really good at my work, and it definitely opened up more opportunities. That's when I began to think of the surgeries as an asset and an investment.

There are several ways to read this. The most politically correct way is as an example of how women get ahead on Wall Street by pleasing the "male gaze." A feminist might say that this women literally had to chop herself up in ways pleasing to men to open financial opportunities.

Perhaps less politically correct, however, is the observation that this woman judged herself in ways that men on Wall Street do not. Now, there are plenty of vain guys on Wall Street who spend lots of time in the gym getting toned beyond the requirements of fitness. And lots of elderly Wall Streeters color their hair. A few have had face-lifts.

But, for the most part, successful investment bankers do not have a self-esteem of "zero" based on their looks. In fact, there are lots of big, fat guys with plenty of self-esteem based on the size of their bank accounts.

If this woman is representative of even a sizable minority of women on Wall Street, this difference in attitudes could explain why so many young women leave the Street. Who wants to be really good at the job, making lots of money, and still feel zero self-esteem?

(Hat tip: Business Insider)


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