In general, a number of sexist terms get thrown around in business meetings. Case in point: “open the kimono.” It’s usually used to mean openly sharing info about your company. (This one’s pretty racist, too.)
Terms like these are toxic, because if you hear them a lot, they stop sounding so gross, and one day you discover yourself saying, “Well, Todd, if they want to do business, they’re going to have to open the kimono just a little more first” yourself in a meeting and then thinking, “Did I just do that? Who the hell am I, Harvey Weinstein?” (True, true story.)
Some industries (hi, tech!) are worse about this than others. But those of us who work in finance know that our industry is the hands-down worst. Here, some of our “favorite” entries from the dictionary of infuriating Wall Street lingo. Some of them are shocking on their face. Others only feel really, really sexist when you hear them over (and over and over) in context.
14 finance terms you’d be embarrassed to say to your grandparents
1. Pump and dump.
Telling people a company’s doing great so the stock price will go up and you can make a bunch of money at their expense. Literally also a phrase used by sexist people to describe objectifying someone after having sex.
Short for “big swinging d*ck.” No, really. And it’s really used, all the damn time, in this industry to describe someone who’s bringing in (and showing off) wads of money.
3. The bull.
Speaking of really, really literal sexism: The symbol of the finance industry is a bull. Bears (which symbolize bad markets) can be anything, but bulls are always male. That bull statue on Wall Street is anatomically correct, btw. And the daring counterpoint to the bull (sponsored by a traditional investing company) ... is a little girl. A prepubescent little girl. Fearless? Yes. Way overmatched? Also yes.
The key word for outperformance — the holy grail of the investing industry — and also a term used as an adjective to make the noun “male” even more male, as in “alpha male.”
Super-common term for the difference between two prices, two interest rates, etc. Manages to give a sex vibe and a bookie vibe at the same time. Variants: “yield spread,” “spread position.” Mmmmmmkay.
Aka the action you take when buying, selling, or holding securities. In other words, the core act of the financial industry. Variants: “open position,” “naked position,” “bull position,” “bear position,” “square position, “long position.” Wall Street just looooooves saying “position.”
And speaking of positions ...
7-14. The options-trading Kama Sutra.
Options trading is an industry niche, but it has so very many sexist terms that we felt compelled to point them out. Things like: Naked call, naked put, fig leaf, straddle, strangle, double diagonal, reverse iron condor, butterfly spread.
The kicker: All of those are real, actual, non-slang terms in options trading. You can find them in textbooks. Options, are you OK?
So yeah, this stuff is gross. And juvenile. But we go high, right? Sticks and stones and all that? Also important to remember: Not everyone in the industry uses most of these words.
But here’s another true story: We know someone* who got asked, at the end of a business call about options strategies, “Do you know how many times you just said the word ‘naked’?” And nope, Phone Guy did not get immediately fired for full-blown, harassment-workshop-video-level, way-beyond-inappropriate creepery — because when she complained to HR, she was told nothing could be done, because “naked call” is a real term. WTF?
And that’s one of the very worst effects of these sexist words: Women, non-binary people, and allies have to hear them, and might have to use them. With use, they become normal. And some people like Phone Guy will take that as license to creep. And that’s how you build an uncomfy industry culture.
No wonder financial services isn’t ~exactly~ known as a welcoming industry for women. That more than 90% of Wall Street traders are men, only 2% of mutual fund assets are managed by women, wealth management is ranked worst for sexual harassment. And it’s also maybe no wonder women financial advisors have the biggest pay gap of any industry.
*She works at Ellevest now (hurray) and helped us make this list!
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