Ardith Lindsey’s lawsuit accusing Citigroup Inc. of tolerating years of sexual harassment and assault against her struck a chord across Wall Street for many reasons, not least of which was her title: managing director.

It’s typically the most senior rank in finance apart from those in executive management positions, one that comes with enhanced compensation and, presumably, power. Women at that level are often touted by banks as examples of how gender is no bar to advancement. But Lindsey, 40, says seniority didn’t protect her, nor did the elevation of another woman, Jane Fraser, to be Citigroup’s chief executive officer.

Lindsey joined Citigroup in October 2007 after graduating from the University of Virginia. According to her suit, she spent her entire career in the bank’s equities division, starting as the most junior member on the electronic sales trading desk. She became head of that desk in 2021, when she was promoted to managing director.

“I was definitely someone that very much had a spotlight on me as being someone who was going to continue to grow and take on more responsibility within the firm,” she said in a recent interview. That’s changed since she’s come forward, Lindsey said.

“Numerous senior people in the industry have told me my career in finance is finished,” she said. Lindsey said she’s currently on leave from bank.

Citigroup declined to comment for this story. The bank has said it will defend itself against Lindsey’s suit.

Lindsey joins other senior Wall Street women who’ve said they experienced workplace mistreatment despite their rank. Last year, Bloomberg reported that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. had paid out well over $12 million to a female partner, a position above managing director at that bank, who’d complained internally that women made less than men and were subject to vulgar and dismissive comments by senior executives. Jamie Fiore Higgins, a former Goldman managing director, made similar accusations in a 2022 book, Bully Market.

‘It Gets Worse’
The allegations challenge the banks’ efforts to present a picture of greater gender equality, often by pointing to rising numbers of female managing directors. Earlier this month, Citigroup announced it had promoted 304 people to that position, 30% of whom were women. Last month, Goldman said women accounted for 31% of its latest managing director class.

“You’re at the top of the food chain, and you’re still being objectified by people who are on the trading floor,” said Marjorie Mesidor, a partner at law firm Wigdor LLP who specializes in sexual harassment suits but is not involved in Lindsey’s case.

Higgins, the former Goldman managing director, said that, in her experience, banks actually expect higher-ranked women to put up with even more bad behavior by their male colleagues.

“It gets worse as you get more senior,” she said, noting that the larger compensation packages for managing directors give the banks more leverage. They can effectively ask, “Where are you going to go that’s going to pay you this much?”

Goldman said last year that it strongly disagreed with Higgins’ characterization of its culture but declined to respond to her specific allegations, which included changed names, composites, compressed timelines and recreated dialogue. Regarding its settlement with the partner, Goldman last year said it disputed Bloomberg’s story but declined to provide specifics. A judge who reviewed the partner’s complaint in a separate case said it described “repugnant ‘bros’ club’ behavior and Goldman’s tolerance of it.”

Most senior Wall Street women aren’t quite at the top of the food chain. With the exception of Fraser, the CEOs of the biggest US banks are all men, and female managing directors still often report to even more senior male executives.

Fraser has hailed Citigroup’s success in meeting targets for diversifying its executive ranks. Last year, she announced that the bank was aiming to have women account for 43.5% of people in positions ranging from assistant vice president to managing director by 2025, up from 40.6% in 2021.

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