Putting Wall Street into words.
Staff Writer: Harman Kang
Opening Belle by Maureen Sherry is a fantastic read for those who revel in stocks, hedge funds, and collateralized debt obligations—and also for those of us who find our heads spinning with this Wall Street jargon. Sherry, formerly the youngest managing director with investment bank Bear Stearns, frames her narrative in such a way as to grasp the interest of the everyday reader. In other words: no finance-related education is required. The financial crisis of 2008 provides an intriguing backdrop for this fictional novel which bridges tales of workplace sexism and a lack of work-life balance.
The novel’s protagonist, Isabelle McElroy, lives a fairly comfortable life— which is unsurprising considering that her pre-bonus salary reaches upwards of $500K. Yet, her materialistic gains do little to solve the issues she endures to achieve said compensation.
Belle has a husband who she feels, despite being a stay-at-home dad, does not pull his weight; three children she believes she does not nurture enough; and, testosterone-crazed male colleagues she considers to be the primary reason that her workplace resembles a booze-crazed frat party. Juggling family, accounts, and the re-emergence of an old flame does become, well, a juggling act of sorts.
A compelling story nonetheless, what really moves the plot along is the emergence of the “Glass Ceiling Club”- an all-female alliance vying for equal pay and proper treatment for women in the workplace. This is the cornerstone of the novel, providing outsiders with a view of what it is really like to be a woman on Wall Street.
Every year, a chunk of Sauder students choose to specialize in finance, pursuing a field known for ridiculous hours and hefty compensation. Though this novel will undoubtedly interest those students, the issues regarding salary inequity and organizational culture are relevant to all fields. The novel also provides particular insight for female students interested in pursuing a career in the capital markets. Though the workplace depicted in the novel may not be indicative of all large banks and firms, it certainly magnifies the issues that many female students will encounter in their futures, and also proposes strategies on how to deal with those issues effectively.
McElroy’s story provides a foundation on which women of the future may shatter the glass separating them from higher status, pay, and recognition. The novel, though evidently autobiographical, is provocative fiction laced with real-world issues—a gripping read right from the opening bell.