April 05, 2001 02:51pm
Playboy Poll Seeks 'Bear Market Babe' to Bare All
by: Emma-Kate Symons
(NEW YORK, NY) -- A contest seeking votes for the ``hottest bear market babe'' among Wall Street's female financial TV personalities -- first prize is the chance to pose nude for Playboy magazine -- is triggering protests against the men's entertainment site of the same name.
Playing on the financial world's penchant for comely female market reporters, a poll on the Playboy.com Web site nominates eight candidates for the title of ``Wall Street's sexiest siren,'' including CNBC's ``Money Honey,'' Playboy.com's moniker for Maria Bartiromo, Willow Bay and Jennifer Westhoven of CNN, and Fox's ``financial fox'' Molly Falconer.
The women's faces appear on flashing $100 dollar bills next to a nearly nude Miss May. Whoever is voted ``Wall Street's sexiest siren'' will be contacted and offered cash to ``bare all for Playboy.''
The poll is an ``outrageous'' return to stereotypes of women that are reminiscent of the 1960s and '70s, said Mary Stowell, a Chicago attorney who represented women in discrimination suits against Merrill Lynch & Co., the world's largest broker, and Citigroup Inc.'s Salomon Smith Barney.
``Why are men so threatened about women in the workplace that they feel they have to keep trying to put them back in the place they're comfortable with them -- as sex objects,'' Stowell told Reuters.
``I bet these women could take an IQ test and beat the pants off many of these males,'' she said.
CNBC refused to comment, and Playboy.com said it had not contacted any of the women highlighted before using their names and images.
A spokeswoman for CNN would not discuss the poll but said: ``We're extremely proud of the number of high-level women employees at CNN business news and CNNfn. The majority of our staff are women, including the executive vice president and executive producer for Moneyline.''
BEAUTIFUL AND BRAINY
As for the nominated women, they were mostly mum. But one contender, who did not want to be named, said it was ``not exactly the kind of thing I'd tell my mother about -- it's not the kind of compliment to write home about.''
The Web site pulls few punches with its often lewd double entendres. The women, some with Ivy League degrees -- Willow Bay graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and has a masters in business from New York University -- are lauded mostly for their physical attributes. The site says it trades ``primarily in the bare market''.
``Forget Greenspan. These Wall Street stunners are what truly spur aggressive growth,'' trumpets the Playboy.com survey, which tries to make some amends, saying the ``gorgeous financial reporters'' are beautiful AND brainy.
One nominee ``has more in her portfolio than just the porn star spelling of her name'' and an Australian newscaster is called ``our favorite Aussie import ... gives us an urge to go exploring Down Under.''
WALL STREET STILL A MAN'S PLACE
Women have long struggled to make it on male-dominated Wall Street, where men still comprise the vast majority of senior traders and bankers -- despite women making up 40 percent of the 1 million people who work in the securities industry.
Nearly 3,000 women have taken action legal against financial powerhouses accused of discrimination. In March, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, said Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. (NYSE:MWD - news) unlawfully fired a top female broker after she filed a sexual discrimination complaint against the leading Wall Street firm. Morgan Stanley said at the time it believed its actions relative to the employee were ``appropriate on the merits.''
One area where women are prominent is in financial TV news, but the Playboy.com survey shows that the macho climate in the business world has changed very little, according to one senior female trader at an asset management firm.
``It's degrading. There's no two ways about it,'' said the female director, who declined to be identified. ``It's tough enough to get ahead as a female with having that kind of asinine behavior.''