Friday, February 21, 2014

Venn Diagram

dein aschenes Haar Sulamith
Anselm Kiefer, Sulamith, 1983
If I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And the lips more scarlet,
Or ask if all be right
From mirror after mirror,
No vanity’s displayed:
I’m looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.

What if I look upon a man
As though on my beloved,
And my blood be cold the while
And my heart unmoved?
Why should he think me cruel
Or that he is betrayed?
I’d have him love the thing that was
Before the world was made.

— William Butler Yeats, “Before the World Was Made”

De gustibus non est disputandum.

— Latin maxim

Man believes that the world itself is filled with beauty—he forgets that it is he who has created it. He alone has bestowed beauty upon the world—alas! only a very human, an all too human, beauty.

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Many, many circuits of this small blue planet around its dim yellow star ago, O Dearly Beloved, I remember helping my college rowing teammates put away the boats and oars one evening after practice. As we bent over exhausted to collect and carry our equipment, a few of us were suddenly struck by the beauty of a lovely sunset, which spread rosy fingers of gorgeous color across the sky and water around the dock and boathouse. Some mischievous wag, no doubt with an eye to provoking exactly what followed, starting proclaiming loudly “Art! Art!” while pointing to the scene, and several of us joined in in boisterous agreement. One upper-class oarsman of distinctly aesthetic and artistic persuasion (who was clearly the wag’s intended target) objected loudly, however, exclaiming that a natural phenomenon such as a sunset could never be art. This, of course, only spurred us jokesters to redouble our banter and offer all sorts of spurious rationales for our baseless badinage. The put upon aesthete was satisfyingly frustrated by our feigned obtuseness, and the rest of us enjoyed a temporary respite from the long, thankless business of training aching bodies for distant races far in the future. In other words, a pleasant time was had by all.

What recalls this memory to mind is a recent peroration by Antipodean philosopher and author John Armstrong, who penned a piece which claims that beauty, or at least the contemplation of beauty, can and should spur humans to become better people. He takes his guidance in this regard from German Romantic philosopher and aesthetician Friedrich Schiller, who Professor Armstrong claims attributed beauty’s appeal and importance to us to its capacity to unite two conflicting psychological drives we all possess—the “sense” drive which “lives in the moment and seeks immediate gratification,” and the “form” drive which seeks order and coherence in the world—into a harmonious whole. Dr. Armstrong does not specify where we should seek this therapeutic, personality shaping beauty, but one may sensibly assume from the examples he uses and the title of a book he has co-authored, Art as Therapy, that he looks primarily for such models and guides to harmony in the realm of art.

Now, while Your Humble Bloggist is an admitted devotee of beauty of all sorts, and an enthusiastic champion of the power and value of Art—which characterizations anyone who has followed my writings here should have no trouble admitting—I simply cannot agree with our earnest Professor that beauty is capable of creating better people, no matter what psychological, emotional, or intellectual mechanisms he might propose. For my reasons, I would point you to the following diagram, which I have constructed out of the goodness of my heart to illustrate the logical conundrums Dr. Armstrong’s assertions entail.

A Comprehensive Theory of Art, Beauty, and Morality in One Microsoft Word Diagram

A quick perusal of same will acquaint you with my own views, which boil down to the hopefully uncontroversial contention that the spheres of Art, Beauty, and Morality in human experience, while they do indeed overlap, are neither coterminous nor coextensive; that is, there is more to each than either or both of the others can comprehend. To defend this argument, I would simply point you to easily identifiable counterexamples to the opposing view: beauty, empty of morality, which is not art (like my oarsman's sunset years ago); art, empty of beauty and morality, which one might find in abundance at any Biennale; and morality, devoid of beauty or aesthetic construction, which one can enjoy in unlimited quantities in the arguments of our politicians and the jeremiads of our paid and unpaid commentariat. That there can be beautiful art, empty of all but the most tenuous and vague moral sentiments, I would point you to a great deal of the Western World’s artistic canon (including, for example, almost the entire oeuvre of Henri Matisse) and most classical music. That there can be unhandsome art of deeply moral intent and impact, which can inspire harrowing, uplifting, and life altering thoughts in a sensitive soul I can illustrate with the paintings of Anselm Kiefer (q.v. above) and numberless examples from world literature. And that there can be moral beauty without aesthetic selection or artifice I would demonstrate by the exercise of courage under great threat, as perhaps we are currently seeing among the citizenry of Kiev and Venezuela.

The happy confluence of all three spheres, Art, Beauty, and Morality in one whole, as designated by the comely asterisk in the diagram above, I contend is only a small portion of the map of human experience. As well as, more importantly, a relatively rare occurrence in most of our lives. And this is not even to address the complications and confusions introduced to a morally therapeutic program of appreciation of art and beauty by the undeniable fact that each, and perhaps most especially the latter, are indeed seen in the eye of the beholder. Which means they are culturally determined, cognitively limited, and far too idiosyncratic to hang a plan of human betterment upon. Frankly, it makes me wonder what sort of wooly headed nonsense Professor Armstrong is blathering on about. There is far too much amoral art and amoral beauty floating around out there to think their contemplation is a reliable source of moral improvement for anyone.

Then one can trot out all the horrible examples of cultured monsters who have perpetrated horrific acts upon their fellow humans throughout the ages notwithstanding and often at the same time as they enjoyed the fruits of artists’ labors and the pleasures of natural and manmade beauty. All one need do is read Paul Celan’s Todesfuge or contemplate the orchestrated theft of fine art from around Europe by Hermann Göring to realize the ability and desire to appreciate art and beauty can in fact be completely divorced from any impulse toward moral betterment or even basic humanity. And I would not be the first to point out that some of the most egregious of such atrocities were committed by denizens of the same nation which produced and idealized such figures as Bach, Beethoven, Goethe, and, if we are being complete, Friedrich Schiller. Not a good scorecard in support of Dr. Armstrong’s hypothesis.

* * *
If pressed, I would propose a different formulation. What I believe is that a sensitive, open soul in the presence of art, morality, or beauty may be able, if she concentrates, to extract meaning and value from the experience. But this meaning and value will not necessarily convey simple, uplifting lessons or moral improvement. Rather, these lessons may be something different entirely: in the case of Art, ambiguity, complexity, and obscurity may illuminate certain open-ended pathways of thought; in the case of Beauty, awe, desire, and uncanniness may give rise to fear, frustration, and a feeling of loss. Surely there are certain lessons to be learned, and moral growth to be had, in the contemplation of beauty and art. But I would contend these lessons may not be comforting ones to learn, and in the case of Great Art and Great Beauty, they are almost certain to be neither simple nor clear.

Perhaps that is the biggest moral lesson to learn, after all: the world, and our experience of it, is too big to be shoehorned neatly into any coherent system of belief. That the world, in many respects, is completely indifferent to our own personal lives and fates, and there are meaningful, awe-inspiring, and wonderful things out there which have nothing at all to do with our petty concerns. Perhaps that is the real power of Beauty and Art and Morality: writ large, they are a reminder of our own insignificance, and a spur to the sort of radical doubt that encourages us to seek harder for the meaning and value—the sources and guides to morality—in our own circumscribed lives.

That is a good lesson, but I’m not sure how you’re going to print it in a textbook.
“I see no justice in that plan.”

“Who said,” lashed out Isaac Penn, “that you, a man, can always perceive justice? Who said that justice is what you imagine? Can you be sure that you know it when you see it, that you will live long enough to recognize the decisive thunder of its occurrence, that it can be manifest within a generation, within ten generations, within the entire span of human existence? What you are talking about is common sense, not justice. Justice is higher and not as easy to understand—until it presents itself in unmistakable splendor. The design of which I speak is far above our understanding. But we can sometimes feel its presence.”

— Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale

© 2014 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Science is fun!
Do you wrestle with dreams? Do you contend with shadows? Do you move in a kind of sleep? Time has slipped away. Your life is stolen. You tarried with trifles, Victim of your folly.

— Dirge for Jamis on the Funeral Plain, from “Songs of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan
— Frank Herbert, Dune

I learned a very interesting fact today, O Dearly Beloved. Apparently, if you select a random entry from the online encyclopedia of human knowledge known as Wikipedia and click on the first linked term in the top entry and each linked entry thereafter (aside from italicized preambles and parenthesized definitions), there is a very strong likelihood that within a finite number of links you will arrive at the Wikipedia entry on “Philosophy.” Some intrepid soul has actually scrubbed the Wikipedia data and determined that this interesting phenomenon obtains almost 95% of the time. By comparison, the next highest source link incidence (at less than 2%) is what is known as a “red link,” or a link which leads exactly nowhere within the Wikipedia database.

This is a strongly suggestive result, and in my opinion it carries interesting implications for those public intellectuals who would like to assert that philosophy is dead, or at least meaningless, in comparison, say, to the ineluctable juggernaut which is Science. This, attentive members of my audience will recall, is a topic of some little interest to me.

Therefore, as a public service to you, My Loyal and Esteemed Readership, I decided to perform my very own small experiment in this regard to check this provocative hypothesis against the facts of the matter. In order to summarize my results, I have defined a specific terminology and notation to represent the structural remove of any Wikipedia entry from philosophy. This concept I hereby label the Wikipedia Degree of Remove from Philosophy, and I designate it with the notation Pwn, where n is the degree, or number of clicks on first entry links it takes to get from the Wikipedia entry in question to the one on the Philosophy.

First, as a sort of control, I investigated the primary Wikipedia link tree of Professor Stephen Hawking, that indisputably accomplished physicist and cosmologist who has asserted more than once that philosophy is dead or worse, irrelevant. My working hypothesis was that Herr Doktor Hawking would have a very high degree of remove number, given his brilliance and success in the realm of science. The empirical link tree results were as follows:
  • Stephen Hawking —> theoretical physics —> physics —> natural science —> science —> knowledge —> fact —> proof (truth) —> necessity and sufficiency —> logic —> reason —> consciousness —> quality (philosophy) —> property (philosophy) —> modern philosophy —> philosophy
which gives our esteemed subject a WDRP of fifteen, or Pw15. Of course, this gives our intrepid philosophy denier quite the benefit of the doubt, for if we stopped our degree of remove calculation at the first instance of a specifically philosophical entry—viz., “quality (philosophy)”—Dr. Hawking’s figure would rather be Pw12. But who are we to split hairs in such an investigation? For all we seek, Dear Readers, is the undeniable empirical truth.

Then I attempted to calculate similar WDRPs for a not-quite random selection of other Wikipedia entries, just for comparison. My results were as follows:
which is sort of odd, when you think about it. For it means that the crowdsourced experts of Wikipedia classify one of the most renowned theoretical scientists of our age at the same remove from the general topic of philosophy as an eggplant, and closer to same than a banana, romantic love, or kiwifruit. The only random entity in our limited sample set closer to philosophy in Wikipedia’s taxonomy is author, New Atheist, and neuroscientist Sam Harris, which is also intriguing given his rejection of great swathes of the discipline in favor of a concentrated scientific reductionism. (I presume none of us will be confused by the result that Glenn Beck is several orders further removed from philosophy than a banana or kiwifruit.)

Now, I admit these are highly selective and tendentious data points, and I am sure our committed devotees of scientism and reductionism will reject them out of hand as not dispositive. However, I would note such skeptics might find their naive and touching faith somewhat shaken were they to replicate the research above themselves, for they would then find every single one of those entries leading inexorably, through no matter how many Glenn-Beckian twists and turns, straight to the core Wikipedia entries on “Knowledge” or “Natural science.” From which it is but a hop, skip, and a short jump to the realm of philosophy.

But anyone not blinkered by their expertise should not be surprised at this result. The Wikipedia entry on Philosophy lays it out as clearly as can be:
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.
Philosophy is a foundational discipline, which underlies and transcends all forms of human knowledge, including that practiced by petty intellectual tyrants swanning about in lab coats. To claim that science does not depend upon philosophy, in at least an epistemological sense, is to claim that science stands outside the realm of human knowledge and thought itself. That it cannot be judged, analyzed, criticized, or challenged except on its own terms and with its own tools.

Which strikes me, at least, as a remarkably stupid and unempirical thing to say.1

Related reading:
A Foolish Consistency (February 5, 2014)
Our Glassy Essence (October 17, 2013)

1 The cleverer among you might object to this semi-serious diatribe with two points. First, the nature of Wikipedia begs the question, since its own editing conventions encourage article authors to set the stage for each entry with foundational definitions; that is, defining entities and concepts in the most general terms and context. In other words, the structure of Wikipedia itself is foundational and hence, in a very deep sense, philosophical. Therefore, linking down through foundational statements should naturally lead to the core concept of philosophy. Wikipedia itself is a form of philosophy. To which I answer: Correct. You have confirmed my concluding remarks. Second, you might say Messrs. Hawking and Harris’s structural Wikipedian proximity to philosophy shows that in fact they are offering their own form of philosophy. To which I again answer: Correct. That they are, but they themselves deny it. Who’s a blinkered idiot now?

© 2014 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Foolish Consistency

What is real?  Why?
Henri Matisse, Goldfish and Palette, 1914
In short, if you believe this, how can you also believe that? The answer is that the realms of belief supposedly existing in a condition of opposition and conflict are, at least to some extent, discrete. What you believe in one arena of human endeavor may have no spillover into what you believe, and do, in another.

Thus, for example, you may have assented to an argument that calls into question the solidity of facts, but when you’re not doing meta-theory, you will experience facts as solidly as the most committed and polemical of empiricists. In doing so you will not be inconsistent or self-contradictory because the question of a belief in facts arises only in the special precincts of philosophical deliberation. In everyday life, we neither believe nor disbelieve in facts as [a] general category; we just encounter particular ones in perfectly ordinary ways; and any challenge to one or more of them will also be perfectly ordinary, a matter of evidentiary adequacy or the force of counter examples or some other humdrum, non-philosophical measure of dis-confirmation. The conclusions we may have come to in the context of fancy epistemological debates (a context few will ever inhabit) will have no necessary force when we step into, and are asked to operate in, other contexts.

Stanley Fish

Stephen Jay Gould made a rather controversial claim some years ago that science and religion operate in separate domains of authority, domains which he christened “Non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA). His separation was attacked from many directions, most successfully by those who pointed out that religion does not limit its claims to questions of meaning and value, but rather also makes existence claims (the history of the universe, the existence of miracles, etc.) and claims about the nature of physical reality.

Now we have New Atheists like Sam Harris declaring that science can answer moral questions, claiming that “moral values are facts, no different from the kinds of facts discovered by chemists.” Of course, Mr. Harris stacks the deck for his argument, unpersuasively in my opinion, by simply defining morality as that which can be measured by science. Presumably, under his schema, something like the knotty problem of evil, with which human beings have been struggling for millennia, can be conveniently reduced to a quantitative analysis of unambiguous results from an fMRI scan of someone’s brain. Aficionados of philosophical argument, whom Mr. Harris seems to discount as irrelevant, would probably consider this line of thinking a somewhat epic example of “begging the question.”

One need not be someone who denies that human beings are physical creatures who live in a universe existing independent of our consciousness to see that such reductionist twaddle is utter nonsense. Science is a fabulous collection of tools—an epistemological attitude, really—which has tremendously successful application to many aspects of our lives, primarily in helping us hypothesize and manipulate what is the nature of the reality we presume we inhabit. It is crackerjack in helping us identify and understand facts, but it has virtually nothing to say about the realm of meaning and value. Those are individual, interpersonal, and societal concerns which absorb us in our mental lives and interactions with each other. In order to grapple with that domain, we must employ different tools and different epistemological attitudes, and there is no independently existing universe of meaning or values we can test our beliefs against, fact-like, to see whether we are correct.

This perspective—that we need to and should use different mental tools and practices to address disjoint spheres of human experience—should worry no-one but those little minds burdened with the hobgoblin of foolish consistency. Human minds are protean instruments, and we should celebrate the fact we can plumb the depths of the sky with science in one minute, struggle with the meaning of our lives another, and wonder at the beauty of a painting or concerto the next. One might say this capacity is what makes us human in the first place.

Science is a wonderful hammer, but only someone with a desperately limited imagination could believe that everything we must grapple with is a nail.

© 2014 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Home, home on the range
I want a girl who gets up early
I want a girl who stays up late
I want a girl with uninterrupted prosperity
Who uses a machete to cut through red tape
With fingernails that shine like justice
And a voice that is dark like tinted glass

— Cake, “Short Skirt / Long Jacket”

Those of you Charming and Intelligent Readers who have followed me at this opinion emporium for longer than a month will recall I am renowned for the consummate artistry and zeal with which I beat dead horses. Having already flogged the eohippine offspring of Perissodactyla mortua quite thoroughly on the topic of junior investment bankers’ excessive working hours and the growing trend by their employers to limit them, I thought I would circle back from another direction and sneak in a couple more licks on the moldering corpse for my amusement and your edification.

The proximate impetus for this odd-toed ungulate bashing was the recent release by Harvard economics professor Claudia Goldin of a research paper which attempts to identify the sources of the residual1 pay gap between working men and women. Interestingly enough, she identifies a substantial source of the gender pay gap in professional positions like law and investment banking to be—wait for it—working hours:
What, then, is the cause of the remaining [gender] pay gap? Quite simply the gap exists because hours of work in many occupations are worth more when given at particular moments and when the hours are more continuous. That is, in many occupations earnings have a nonlinear relationship with respect to hours. A flexible schedule comes at a high price, particularly in the corporate, finance and legal worlds.
In other words, Goldin finds that in service professions like banking and law, some hours are worth more than others. Specifically, such employers demand continuous time at work and constant availability, whether in person overnight and on weekends or via email and phone. Employees who deliver this kind of total commitment are rewarded. Those who do not are paid less or hustled out the door. Goldin concludes that “face time,” long workday hours (even if unproductive), and heavy, near-constant demands on junior professionals to work late nights and weekends differentially handicap women, because they are often difficult to reconcile with many women’s other interests, particularly those connected with raising a family.2

I have written similar things in the past:
Another answer may be that the duration, timing, and demands of an investment banking career are simply incompatible with many women’s other important interests. In particular, while an analyst typically has a two- or three-year stint directly after college, after which most are encouraged to leave and get an MBA (and some elect to make the jump into private equity or hedge funds), a woman entering investment banking as an associate after business school can anticipate at least a decade before she can begin to exercise some measure of control over her life. Associates usually start in their mid- to late twenties, spend three to five years before promotion to Vice President, and then spend four to seven years or more getting to Managing Director. All during that time, they work incredibly long hours, travel like maniacs, and basically do not have any personal life to speak of. For many women, this span from their mid-twenties to their mid-thirties coincides with what they envision as the period when they will get married and start a family. While this is true for many men, also, I think most of us can agree that committing to a career in investment banking is a much more fraught and difficult decision for a woman than it is for a man. This stage is also one when junior bankers are not making enough money to make it feasible to hire full time help to care for young children. A female Vice President is certainly physically capable of having a baby while traveling 150 days a year and working upwards of 80 hours per week, but unless her spouse or partner is rolling in dough him- or herself (or willing to stay at home), she simply will not be able to afford to outsource its care.3

So the answer is clear, Ladies: it’s not you, it’s us. And we don’t want to change.

* * *

Now it should be relatively uncontroversial that taking an extended sabbatical from a personal network business like investment banking is prima facie unsupportable, because anyone who does so loses contacts, relationships, and market knowledge which are critical to the performance of the job. The only possible way a woman who takes 2, 3, 5, or 10 years off to raise Junior is going to get her high-paid, front-office, client-facing, revenue-producing job back in my industry is to bring a rolodex chock full of solid new billionaire client prospects she made at Lamaze and SoulCycle classes and while standing in the nursery school pick-up line at the 92nd St. Y. There are just way too many talented (younger) men and women chained to their desks on Wall Street who are qualified and eager to take your seat if you choose to give it up.

I think most people apart from the militant wing of La Leche League understand and accept this. However, I have seen a significant number of people who read research like Professor Goldin’s or digest explanations like mine about why working hours for junior bankers are so crazy who then turn around and declare it does not have to be that way. Some of these critiques take the form that our admittedly inefficient work practices have little to do with the actual amount of work needing to be done and much more to do with institutionalized hazing and brainwashing practices. Others concede that, yes, our cannon fodder young professionals do have to do a lot of work, but there’s no reason 100-hour workweeks can’t be split up among more workers. Like, say, into two 50-hour slogs by well-rested, culturally rounded, housework-sharing New Feminism poster boys (or girls) who can pass the baton back and forth.

But this is foolish. First of all, the nature of the work does not allow it. Anyone who has ever programmed a multi-page Excel model knows how massively inefficient and dangerous it is to use multiple authors. It takes even the best financial modeler a substantial amount of time to get up to speed on someone else’s model, time he or she could use to build the next model waiting impatiently in the queue.4 The same is true, to a more limited extent, of the PowerPoint and Word presentations novice dealmakers spend unconscionable hours of their youth editing, re-editing, and turning back and forth to Presentation Resources at three in the morning. Meanwhile, it is these same people doing the actual work late at night and on weekends who participate in the endless meetings and conference calls with their superiors and clients during the daylight hours where the intent and nuances of said models, documents, and presentations are hashed over minutely. How would you propose to brief the lobster shift on what needs to be done on all six of your live projects each and every night? How much time do you think it would take, and how many errors would be introduced in the communication? Corporate finance and M&A work just isn’t like a trading book, which can be handed over from one time zone to another relatively efficiently and with little chance of information loss or error. Introducing multiple hands also complicates the assignment and monitoring of accountability, which is a critical quality control device in a business that aspires to both speed and error-free precision.

One might counter that the various tasks investment bankers do could be more thoroughly split up along functional lines, with, for example, modeling experts just working on models and presentation mavens focusing solely on presentations. In fact, many large investment banks already do a limited form of this, which is why you will typically find the best financial modelers in a large bank keyboarding frantically away at midnight in the M&A or Leveraged Finance support groups. But while this improves efficiency and boosts quality control, it makes each young banker that much less knowledgable about the entire deal process, and one of the key reasons investment banks lure smart young children into their meat grinders is to find, train, and apprentice the next generation of senior client-facing bankers who are supposed to know everything there is to know about their trade. It is also worth noting that specialist juniors are often the most overworked cogs in the machine.

* * *

Lastly, and most importantly, the notion that you could replace a bunch of bright, hard-working, frazzled young troopers with armies of specialized clock-watching 9-to-5-ers runs straight into an insurmountable obstacle: the client won’t tolerate it.

Let me share another personal anecdote with you. Ages ago, when I was a mid-level Vice President at a global überbank, I was working around the clock for weeks on a very large, high profile transaction for one of my group’s best clients. At the same time, Mrs. Dealmaker was working around the clock to take care of Cost Center Number Two, who had recently arrived from the hospital to swell our merry band to four, slot number three already being occupied by toddler Cost Center Number One. Naturally, she was frazzled beyond belief (CCN2 was a colicky newborn) and begged me to come home at a reasonable hour one night just to take care of CCN1 while she took a deserved rest. So I did.

In so doing, I bowed out of running the routine nightly conference call on my deal and handed the baton to my very competent Associate, who I was confident could handle any trivia that might arise. Which he did, as expected. No worries.

But later that night I received a call at home from my client’s General Counsel, who proceeded to rip me a new one for having the audacity to bow out of a routine conference call on which nothing of note was discussed or needed to be discussed, simply because the client had a bunch of corporate Vice Presidents dialed in, too. In any rational sense, the General Counsel’s complaint was ridiculous, as it ignored both the outstanding job my team and I had been doing to keep the deal on track (and hence relatively immune to potential hiccups) and the fact there were, in fact, no hiccups to discuss. But investment banking is not a rational business. It is a client service business, and the client is always right. Mea culpa.

And this was the lesson I learned from this incident: investment banking clients expect to own you in exchange for paying your bank the ridiculously large fees it charges. They own you completely, at any time of day or night, for as long as they want to, and with complete and utter disregard for whatever may or may not be going on in your life. Let me tell you something: I have never yet been on a deal where the client hasn’t chuckled in satisfaction, usually more than once, at the long hours and hard work the junior bankers on his deal are putting in. It is a standing joke for every client who engages my services. They expect it.

* * *

So where this leaves young women who want to make a career in my business, I will allow you Clever and Insightful Ladies and Gentlemen to determine. I suspect, for myself, not very far ahead. It could be a very, very long time—read never—before women make up a larger portion of revenue-producing investment bankers. It is just not a profession which encourages or supports work-life balance of any kind. For what it’s worth, it’s not the investment banks which are driving this. It is our clients. Who are, you know, always right.

By the way, the General Counsel of the client in my story was a woman.

Related reading:
A Fine Disregard for the Rules (January 14, 2014)
The Invention of Leisure (November 12, 2013)
Go Ahead, Live a Little (May 12, 2013)
She’s Trading Her MG for a White Chrysler LeBaron (March 2, 2013)
Fingernails that Shine Like Justice (May 21, 2007)

1 That is, that which remains unexplained after you adjust for identifiable sources of gender-based differences in pay, such as the fact many women tend to gravitate toward lower paying professions in the first place and many other women drop out of the workforce for extended periods of time to bear and raise their children.
2 The going presumption here being that men either have no conflicting interests to balance or have learned as a gender to simply pound sand if they don’t like it. Or so I am told.
3 This finesses the issue whether most women are interested in outsourcing so much of the care and rearing of their offspring to relative strangers. Remember we are not talking about someone who can drop off her angel at daycare at 8:30 am on the way to work and pick her up in time for dinner.
4 And please don’t suggest this could be avoided by using standardized, error-checked models. First of all, every bank worth its salt already has them. Second, every model, no matter how comprehensive and detailed, has to be structurally modified to fit the particular variations of each individual deal. You find a real life deal that fits the standard bank model. Go ahead, I’ll wait. And third, using a 50-page standard leveraged buyout model to model first order effects of an M&A or capital raising transaction is like mosquito hunting with a howitzer: potentially effective, but way too much trouble and almost guaranteed to vaporize the mosquito you wanted to collect in the first place. You build a new, custom-purpose model instead.

© 2014 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.