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Frozen Out of the Trading Club
Anonymous
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When I was a freshman, I joined a stock trading club at my school. The club teaches kids about investing in financial markets, and we used a trading simulator to practice buying and selling stocks. I was interested in learning how to do this so in the future I could trade with real money. There were around 30 members in the club, and my friend and I were the only two girls.

I consistently earned in the top five. I wrote dozens of papers on industries that seemed likely to prosper soon and were worth investing in. Then I would present them to the club. For example, I wrote about why investing in tobacco industries that were expanding in Third World countries made sense. Although tobacco companies were declining in the U.S., they were thriving in the Third World due to lack of regulations. Small stock traders like the ones in our club could make easy money buying into them and then selling as the price went up.

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During my presentations, I was frequently interrupted. Boys would start to explain to me the material I had already researched and turned into a PowerPoint.

Take my presentation on futures trading (another way to invest). I turned on the projector and had my first PowerPoint slide up; it showed two graphs.

“Today, we’ll be talking about trading futures—” Before I could finish my sentence, a senior jumped up.

“As you can see on the graphs she’s put up, there are two ways to trade: going long and going short! Can you guess what that is?” For a second, I thought he was quizzing the few underclassmen in the class, but his eyes locked with mine. I got a sour taste in my mouth.

“I was going to get to that after explaining the basis of futures, but, going long is when you profit from future increased prices and going short is when you profit from future decreased prices. Now, if I can continue,” I said curtly. Annoyance bubbled inside of me.

I noticed when guys presented or spoke, they were seldom interrupted, nor did they have their own material explained back to them.

I have since heard the term “mansplaining,” which is when a man patronizingly explains something to a woman. That’s what was happening to me.

Intelligent, Dedicated, Determined

In spite of, or maybe because of, the condescending and insulting behavior toward me, I was determined to show that I was one of them. The other girl was too. We wanted to prove our intelligence and dedication as traders.

We worked together for more than two years, trading alongside each other and taking each other’s advice on whether or not to buy or sell or short. (Short selling is a way to make money by betting that the stock will go down.)

We became close friends; we respected each other and valued each other’s opinion. Yet, the senior members of the club tried to pit us against each other: After presenting together, we would each be messaged later about who had done more work.

We ignored the comments and kept working hard. It felt like the senior boys didn’t like either of us and maybe wanted us to fight with each other so we’d eventually quit.

It deeply troubled me that none of the other club members spoke up for us. Maybe it was because they were scared of the older boys. Maybe it was because they didn’t care. Either way, it was wrong.

Excluded

One night I was scrolling down Facebook, a bad habit of mine. One image caught my eye and I stopped scrolling. It was a picture of the trading club posing for a photo inside a building on Wall Street. Everyone was there except me and my friend.

I quickly messaged her, asking if she had been informed about the club outing. Hearing her say no further stirred my anger. That night, she quietly left the group page on Facebook. She didn’t attend any more meetings.

I tried to convince her to stay. But she said we were wasting our time and she wanted to just study trading on her own. Although she hadn’t been that vocal about her feelings before now, I knew that photo was the breaking point for her.

The next day, the club had a meeting. I asked one of the members why no one had invited my friend and me. “Oh, that? The president sent a bunch of messages about it to the group chat.”

“Group chat? Do you mean the group page?”

image by YC-Art Dept

“Oh, um,” he looked around as if he suddenly wanted to be somewhere else. I crossed my arms over my chest.

“Why am I not in that?” I demanded.

“I don’t know! The seniors add the members—maybe they only add those who make a lot of profit.”

“I made the third most money last month!” He flinched at my exclamation. Other members began to show up, giving us looks. I shrunk suddenly at the unwanted attention. I regretted raising my voice, and I started biting the inside of my cheek from nerves.

“It’s not my fault, alright,” he said, sitting down and avoiding eye contact. “Take it up with the senior members.”

I felt dejected as I made my way to the door. The president of the club walked past me. I hesitated in the doorway, eyes locked with his. Maybe he would say something, anything, about why I was being excluded. Instead he just smiled at me politely.

I walked out filled with bitter resentment.

Blocked and Shocked

I needed to confront him about the Wall Street event, the group chat, and the overall lack of inclusion and equality that my female friend and I had experienced. I messaged him online, calmly and clearly articulating the blatant ways I felt I was being wrongfully excluded and treated by members of the club.

We fell into an argument, messaging each other back and forth. He called me “a crazy b-tch.” When I asked him why he had never added me to the group chat, I was told it was “only for real traders.” When I listed my various accomplishments, I was promptly blocked. When I checked the club group page, I was locked out.

I stared at my screen, shocked. For nearly three years, I had strived to prove my worth to the senior members of the club. When I told my friend who used to be in the trading club with me, she wasn’t surprised. “They never wanted us there,” she said as we sat together in the park across from school. Inside, a trading club meeting was in progress, one that we could no longer attend.

As we sat, I felt animosity toward the other club members. I began to doubt my own self-worth as a competent trader. But I also started wondering if the root of this exclusion was sexism. Maybe we were pushed out of the club because we weren’t boys.

“I don’t want to be in a club with people who don’t respect me anyway,” she said. I agreed, but couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of dejection. What could we do now? Neither of us wanted to reach out to an adult and make the situation messier. We sat together in silence, both of us stewing over the injustice of it all.

Creating Our Own Club

“Hey,” I perked up suddenly, a grin growing on my face. “Why don’t we make our own club?”

“Our own club?” she echoed my words.

“Yes! Who needs that trading club? We can keep trading and I bet we’ll even be able to recruit other girls who want to get involved.” And so the Business Club was born.

We enlisted nearly 40 members within two months, and 25 were girls.

When I think of men threatened by women in positions of power, it conjures up an image of little boys holed up in their tree house, a scribbled sign reading “Boys Only” on the door. They’re afraid that when we gain power, they lose power; but this isn’t a zero-sum game. There’s enough room for everyone in the metaphorical tree house.

What upsets me the most isn’t that I was belittled and disrespected by a few boys, but that a much larger group of them stood by without doing anything. According to Bloomberg News, in 2016, women held only 17 to 23% of all positions in finance, and only 2% of hedge funds were run by women.

To battle this significant gender divide, women need to stand up and make themselves heard with the knowledge that their male counterparts will support them. Most guys I know call themselves supporters of equal rights, but calling yourself one isn’t enough. Women and men both need to take a stand to defeat sexism: in finance, in politics, and everywhere else.

(FCYU-2018-01-18)