India's Testosterone-free Alternative

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Writing in the blog last year, Sarah Iqbal pondered whether the financial crisis was the result of too much testosterone on Wall Street, wondering if things would have been different if women were in charge:

Peer pressure leads to male herding behavior in financially pressurized situations resulting in high risk bets. Women’s propensity for risk-taking, however, seems immune to this type of pressure.

There is little doubt whether Wall Street's modus operandi is testosterone-fueled. The question of whether or not the crisis was precipitated by this male-dominated culture is more difficult to answer, as there are few alternative financial centers to compare it with. London? Frankfurt? Hong Kong? Tokyo?

Macho dominance in finance seems ubiquitous.

Yet, a real alternative is emerging in Mumbai. The New York Times reports on the growing ranks of women in India's top jobs, who are increasingly running the show at American and European banks:

In India’s relatively young financial industry, women not only are some of the top deal makers, they are often running the show.

HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS and Fidelity International in India are run by women. So is the country’s second-biggest bank, Icici Bank, and its third-largest, Axis Bank. Women head investment banking operations at Kotak Mahindra and JPMorgan Chase and the equities division of Icici. Half of the deputy governors at the Reserve Bank of India are women.

Indian women are rising the ranks without acquiescing to male social mores:

India is without an old Wall Street staple: Women who feel they must act like the stereotypical male banker to advance. There are no swaggering “masters of the universe” in this group. Top female managers regularly wear saris and talk openly about their children and husbands.

One in five of India’s big bank, insurance and money-management companies is headed by a woman, according to a study by the headhunting group EMA Partners. By contrast, there are no women leading major American or European banks, and no woman has ever run a Wall Street investment bank.

My favorite quote comes from the CEO of JPMorgan, who seems to be replacing hubris with wit:

Kalpana Morparia, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase in India, had some simple advice for Western banks that are trying to increase the number of women at the top. “Just be gender neutral,” she said. “Men are just as smart as we are.”

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