Jennifer Litwin, a senior director at Greenwich Associates, once sang an aria in a prospect’s office right off the trading floor.
“The meeting wasn’t going well” Litwin said. When she told him she’d been an opera singer before entering finance, he challenged her to demonstrate.
Knowing how to float out Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” is one of the talents that landed Litwin a Traders Magazine Wall Street Women Crystal Ladder Award. It was one of nine such honors presented to 15 women last night at the Waldorf Astoria.
“Women have worked hard for a long time in a locker room atmosphere,” Kenneth Heath, the publisher of Traders Magazine, said. “If you’re smart and tough enough, you last, just like a guy.”
Being nice also works, said Michael Pachter, managing director in equity research at Wedbush Securities, introducing his boss, Sheri Kaiserman, head of equities at the firm, and winner of the Excellence in Leadership Award.
“Because she is so nice, we feel comfortable taking risks. If we mess up it’s OK,” Pachter said.
Kaiserman said for a long time she attributed her success to luck and running with the opportunities given to her. In her acceptance speech, she unveiled a new attitude:
“My success is a result of my skills and hard work,” she said, arms raised in Rocky-style victory. “That was really hard. I practiced it over and over with my husband.”
Among the other winners, profiled in the November 2012 issue of Traders Magazine: Peggy Bowie, senior trader, Manulife Asset Management, for lifetime achievement; Nancy D. McLaughlin, Managing Director, Sales and Business Development, ConvergEx Group, also lifetime achievement; Kerry Byrne, senior vice president, First Eagle Investment Management, in the Crystal Ladder category; and Cathy Wilson Rosen, a senior trader at Zweig-DiMenna Associates LLC, for charitable work on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
An independent advisory board of seven female leaders in the securities industry selected the winners, Traders Magazine Editorial Director Tom Steinert-Threlkeld said. (Understandably, because there are no women on the editorial masthead of the magazine.)
Industry Trailblazers Award winner Donna Sims Wilson, executive vice president at Castle Oak Securities LP, addressed the issue of balancing work and family.
“My friend and mentor Myra Lapeyrolerie told me, ’You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at the same time,’” Sims Wilson said.
Besides the manifold examples of women who’ve thrived on Wall Street, the strongest message on how women can advance in the industry came from Stephanie Ruhle, an anchor on Bloomberg Television.
“Why moan about the old boys clubs,” Ruhle said in the keynote address. “Stop complaining and create the womens clubs. Make them less about cocktailing and more about action.”
The comment led to an impromptu announcement concerning the format of the event.
“We won’t have an open bar next year, so best to go get a drink now,” Heath, the maestro of the ceremony, said.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn on the art market, Richard Vines on food and Ryan Sutton on New York restaurants.