In the same style as roman à clef books The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada, Bond Girl takes on Wall Street, illuminating the excesses, sexual harassment, and hazing type working conditions for women as they take on one of the last bastions of the “old boy club”. While I can’t say that I truly enjoyed the book, it does remind me in some ways of my entry into the male-oriented sales force of a Fortune 500 company back in the 1980s.
At age eight, Alex’s father, a financial banker working on Wall Street took her on her first visit to New York City’s financial district- the economic epicenter of the world. The pulsating energy enthralled her, generating a driving desire to work there, and of course it helped that from her eyes it seemed like everyone got to speak in their outside voice all the time, and talk on the phone constantly – two very excellent things. Thus while her classmates tried on ideas of different careers, Alex knew that she wanted to work on Wall Street. Her senior year at the University of Virginia, she investigates the different companies and decides on Cromwell Pierce, her father’s company’s biggest rival and polar opposite. Cromwell Pierce has a reputation of being “younger, hipper, and a more fun place to work”.
In July of 2006 she starts work as intern assigned to the government bond desk in the fixed-income division. Her first day on the job her new boss Ed Chiccone, or “Chick’ tells her the company doesn’t have anything against woman – even though he has milk in his refrigerator that has lasted longer than some of the “girls” they have hired over the years. Also, if she wears a tight skirt and someone smacks her on the ass then don’t come running to him or HR. And even though they had to know she was coming, since she received her job offer in October, there is no desk available. She is given a kiddie folding chair and told to rotate through the group, observing what they do.
Soon it becomes more of an endurance challenge than a learning experience, as Alex accepts her indentured servant status, getting there before anyone else, and being the last one to leave. Her social life is a thing of the past, although one of her co-workers is extremely cute, and goes out of his way to help her adjust.
This is a difficult book to judge because the writing is good but the subject matter left me disheartened. It is discouraging to think that women in the twenty-first century still endure this type of sexual harassment and offensive working conditions. I have mixed emotions about laboring to fit in and enduring what is dished out. I realize that very few careers would be open to us today without the women before us who did this, thus proving that they were as tough as the guys. Still I have a difficult time believing that putting up with mistreatment is wise either. While I understand the concept of testing new recruits to see what they are made of – and many of the male interns endured similar treatment – I have a difficult time accepting that any job is worth leaving your self worth at the door. This type of antiquated rational of subjugating trainees keeps toxic work environments alive plus gives legitimacy to this conduct as a viable way of weeding out the weak.
While the thought of a misogynist work place is depressing, the story is not, since it is told in a breezy, almost matter-of-fact way. I am not sure if some of the scenarios were written to be funny because to me they were more cringe-worthy than humorous. And while the setting is Wall Street, I can’t say that I learned a lot of how it operates.
There is a slight romance although it is pretty obvious from the beginning which way the wind is blowing.
While Alex is of age, the book is similar to a coming-of-age type book, as Alex is tested on her ability to endure, compromise and suppress much – all for the sake of her career. As with any test she learns her boundaries and her limits. For some of you that is enough of a reward.