Edna V. Broyles was a top-producing stockbroker with the organizational skills of three, a churchgoer with a generous eye for helping others, a sharp laugh, a tough hide, a loving family and a soft spot for FSU football. But the Florida-born Broyles drew the line in the late s and early '90s when her boss at the Smith Barney brokerage office in downtown Tampa habitually insulted, intimidated and at times undermined the careers of dozens of women employees.
Broyles was one of the few women there with standing, who ranked among the branch's most successful brokers. So why get involved? After years of such abuse, Broyles saw this was one boat that needed rocking.
The broker complained loudly over a period of years to her boss, and in writing to his boss, and to his boss, all the way up to Wall Street and the chief executive of Smith Barney. Mostly, Broyles was ignored and labeled a troublemaker who only saw things in black and white.
What little advice trickled down came in typically blunt Wall Street style: Stop bitching. That did not sit well with Broyles.
The key issue: gender discrimination. On one side of a long, dark wood conference table sat Broyles, her husband, Phil Broyles, and one attorney.
Across from them was a small armada of dark-suited lawyers, flown in from New York and flanked by boxes of black binders full of memos and documents, ready to attack Broyles' credibility and defend their client, then known as Salomon Smith Barney. The brokerage company ranks among the most powerful on Wall Street and is part of the world's biggest financial conglomerate, Citigroup.
For all their supposed horsepower, Wall Street lawyers often rely on a simple but effective strategy when confronted with allegations of discrimination by women employees. It's called "nuts or sluts," a tactic aimed at portraying complaining female workers as either crazy or promiscuous. Broyles says she and other women employees at Smith Barney's downtown branch routinely faced harsh working conditions and frequent intimidation by branch manager Frank Powers.
Women also were denied equal business and career opportunities. Broyles, who had generated big bucks for Smith Barney since she was recruited from Dean Witter inwas promoted to vice president.
But she was almost immediately ordered in writing to stop complaining about branch problems. When she didn't, she was fired in Six years later, to deal with Broyles in arbitration, Smith Barney's attorneys chose the "nuts" plan, arguing Broyles was a few cards short of a full deck. When Broyles was fired, Karp says, "It was as if a malignant tumor was excised from the office.
The arbitration hearing, held over three days, typically would have been held in secret. But on this occasion, Broyles had successfully invited two reporters to observe: a St. Petersburg Times reporter and Susan Antilla, a veteran New York business reporter for Bloomberg News, who was writing a book that would become a damning expose of Wall Street's harassment of and discrimination against women employees. She is also a person with a strong sense of right and wrong.
So she was clearly dismayed to find her arbitration hearings so lopsided. Yet Broyles found herself on the defensive, her lone attorney outgunned and the rules of the hearing strangely limited. While more than 20 women employees in just one Tampa branch had filed claims against Smith Barney, that pattern could not be considered during arbitration. Though thousands of women nationwide had filed claims of discrimination against Smith Barney and other major brokerage companies, that could not be discussed.
And while figures were available showing how many women worked for Wall Street companies but how few held ificant positions, it did not matter under arbitration rules.
When arbitration was over, the three-person panel decided against Broyles on Jan. She received nothing. Broyles, 51, is not deterred.
She says her task may take a lifetime and only serve to benefit the next generation of women pursuing Wall Street employment. But that's okay. She cites her belief in God and family as her source of strength to continue.
And she volunteers an inspirational quote from a power-of-positive-thinking businessman, W. Clement Stone: "The truth will always be the truth regardless of lack of understanding, disbelief or ignorance. Says Broyles: "There are lies and there is McJustice," a reference to her long and often tortured experience with the legal system.
Her message: Stick with it. For Julie, Edna Broyles' year-old daughter, her mom's legal battles have been going on for half her life. Broyles recalls an exchange when her daughter was in middle school. Her daughter responded: "Not really, Mom. Some people are really mean.
It's kind of like Smith Barney on wheels. Broyles is not alone in her quest.
She is, in fact, part of a larger national movement to change how Wall Street treats women. Pamela Martens was born and raised in a West Virginia coal mining community. In a tale similar to Edna Broyles', Martens spent the next decade as a rare woman broker in a hostile and intimidating world.
Cuneo went out of his way to ignore the few women working in his branch but lavished attention and new business opportunities on the men. In frat-boy style, Cuneo held regular drinking parties in the branch basement, where a room had been converted to a party room, complete with garbage bins full of Bloody Marys and beer. It was soon dubbed the Boom-Boom Room. The branch would become infamous, and Martens would gain near-icon status as a female David fighting against the Goliath of Wall Street, in New York media coverage and more recently in Antilla's book, Tales from the Boom-Boom Room: Women vs.
In the Garden City branch "bullpen," the open space for trainees, brokers were constantly "burping and farting," one woman testified, and Cuneo and other male brokers routinely used foul language and referred to women as "whores" and far worse. But she balked in when Cuneo insisted employees volunteer for a charity or lose their raises and time off for sick relatives and funerals.
Martens openly criticized Cuneo, who threatened to toss her out of the company. When no help came, Martens hired an attorney in January In October, she was fired. Like Broyles, she was hired elsewhere within weeks.
Martens ed the branch of another brokerage company, A. Martens became the lead plaintiff in a landmark class-action lawsuit. Commentator Hugh Downs asked: "Does this go on where you work? Broyles and Martens were among them. It was their first meeting and the start of an enduring friendship between two women of similar business success, similar strong religious beliefs and similar personalities that refused to back down.
They are both resolute whistleblowers. The s from the mids are telling. Among Smith Barney offices, only 10 women occupied the top spot of branch manager. Fifteen percent of the 11, brokers at the company were women. In the four years ending inonly 2.
Inthe class action lawsuit begun by Martens and others resulted in a wide-ranging settlement with Smith Barney. In that settlement, Smith Barney agreed to various programs to encourage hiring and promoting women.
More to the point, Smith Barney agreed to set up an independent dispute resolution process for women employees with complaints. At this point, Martens became dissatisfied, opted out of the Smith Barney settlement and is trying to have her case heard in court. Broyles stayed in the settlement. Inan increasingly vocal Martens would be arrested for protesting on a sidewalk outside the annual shareholders meeting of Citigroup, Smith Barney's parent company, held in Manhattan's Carnegie Hall. Martens was soon released. She is gratified by the recent exposure of and fines against many Wall Street practices, from self-serving analysts to handing out insider stock in IPO deals.
Now she is regrouping, "planning new strategies against these companies.
Edna Vassar was born in Orlando, the firstborn of older parents. The family moved to Tampa so that her father, who worked for Armour Co. Meats, could help build the company's business with Publix Super Markets. At 17, she worked at the Britton Plaza Publix in South Tampa as a part-time cashier and, on Thursdays, as office manager.
She graduated from high school inthe year before her father retired. Eager to begin in sales, she ed the retailer Maas Bros.
Their word was their bond," she says of her Maas Bros. They did what was right. And it worked.
Broyles started in cosmetics before becoming a buyer of women's sportswear for the department store chain. She began to travel to California and elsewhere on buying trips. InEdna married Philip Broyles, a certified public ant.
They have two children. But it was a start. She later talked to the local Dean Witter branch and decided in to try her hand as a broker. ByBroyles was talking to a nearby Shearson branch.