One woman’s fight against the boys’ network

In late January 2016, Jamie Fiore Higgins, one of the most powerful women at Goldman Sachs decided to call it quits. For two decades, she was at a workplace filled with misogyny. Her book Bully Market reveals the inner workings of a powerful boys’ network that permeates corporate culture in America.

Jamie Fiore Higgins

Higgins came from a hardworking Italian American immigrant family. She wanted to be a social worker but her dad wanted her to be in a financially lucrative career. After graduating from Bryn Mawr, she joined Goldman Sachs and the money was good, really good.

Bully Market is a riveting account of how the boys’ network systematically excluded her and used their abusive power to pin her down at every turn. This is the story of Tom White kicking her out of an open meeting, Eric choking her and pinning her against the wall, Mike screaming at her for going against the Goldman “family values”, of Justin sabotaging her review and Jerry and Vito mocking her.

This boys’ network is still alive and kicking and not much has changed for women in corporate America. In a non-linear work culture, hybrid work environments now allow instant online bullying instead of bullying at the workplace.

Bully Market is a candid, tell-all story, very few women would dare to write. Higgins exposes her vulnerability, her daily conflict of money versus values, her relationship with her husband, and how she withstood two decades of abuse in corporate America.

“Leaving your desk to get your wing tips shoe-shined was a worthwhile endeavor. Providing breast milk for your infant at home? Not so much. Those men in the offices clutched on to their old boys’ club values with white knuckled fists,” she writes angrily about how she was treated during and after pregnancy.

As an intern, she was subject to humiliating treatment at the hands of trainers. Later, when she became a trainer, she was upset about her own behavior. “Like the long-bullied kid on the playground who becomes the bully, I had become a part of the cycle of abuse at Goldman Sachs,” she writes.

According to her, Goldman’s value system was so different from what was shown in glossy brochures and their website. Higgins calls out human resources and employee relations departments for being the least helpful and the least confidential.

This was a value system created by men in glass offices. Higgins always felt that she was owned by the brand and she was nobody without it.

All this happened prior to the “Me Too” movement and the killing of George Floyd. Since then, corporations have made paranoid attempts to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into their mission statements. In her parting advice to the C-suites at Goldman Sachs she writes: “Don’t take the company’s ideals and create a list of business principles or best practices, or stick them as chapters in an employee handbook. Instead make them permeate the offices and be modeled by everyone in senior management.”

Hope things have changed at Goldman Sachs and other corporations. In an age of non-linear working and quite quitting, it’s better upholding the values that you were taught at home and not at your workplace.


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.

Aren’t we fed up with the optics of diversity?

Over two decades ago, I was cast into the optics of diversity by accident. While working as an intern in a community college, my boss summoned me to participate in a group photo. I was new to the United States and in typical Indian fashion, I nodded my head. In a few minutes, I was part of a group picture and soon I was on the cover of a marketing catalog titled “Diversity Enriches Us All.”

I looked both Hispanic and Asian, a double whammy for the HR department. Yes, I was gullible and I didn’t even know what the purpose of the photograph was at that time!

Fast forward today, I see babies of all hues in advertisements, rich Indian ladies traveling in autorickshaws for American corporate ads and of course the “we should include this race in this advertisement” and the infamous “are we missing a color here?” advertisement.

Shortly after George Floyd’s death, corporate CEOs were scrambling for at least two weeks not knowing what to do as their eyes were always focused on the tickers earlier. The early adopters started issuing standard press releases to be first in line, the daring ones spoke out against the murder, aligned with anti-racist organizations, and the thoughtful ones kept on thinking without doing much.

In weeks we saw bright new advertisements including everyone.

A barrage of high profile diversity officer positions opened up and companies started publicly announcing their new chief diversity officers. In sacrosanct PR spaces reserved for new CEOs, chief diversity officers suddenly came to prominence.

The optics of diversity doesn’t serve any good for us. It’s lame and irrespective of what side you are on, it’s a waste of time, money and effort. Just like how diversity consultant Lily Zheng calls the business case of diversity a sinking ship, the optics of diversity is a temporary eyewash.

Sadly, everyone is following the bandwagon and reminds me of Everett Rogers theory: “Diffusion of innovations.” An old idea, the optics of diversity is being spread, influenced by the idea itself as it has seen a renewed sense of purpose and is being disseminated through communication channels over time in the social system we live in. The early adopters have started moving on fast, trying to make the optics of diversity an innovative idea that needs social recognition.

“Women and underrepresented minority employees drawn to a company by its diversity optics are blindsided by how different the reality inside the company is from the polished exterior they’ve been marketed,” writes Zheng.

In a report titled “Outcomes over optics: Building inclusive organizations,” consulting firm Deloitte reminds us of a simple fact: “Businesses that focus on maximizing the potential of each of their employees win in the market. From superior financial performance to improved talent retention and a greater capacity for innovation, when a firm brings together people with different backgrounds, skillsets, and mindsets, they achieve more.”

So, how can we focus on outcomes and not optics?

  1. Don’t waste resources on the optics of diversity. However small or big you are, focus on building culture.
  2. Leadership needs a Diversity 101 to build learning-centered organizations of lasting value, not organizations that worry about shareholder value.
  3. Every organization will have to pay a price to change its culture and this requires active participation from leadership.
  4. Inclusion takes time, but if every employee feels included and engaged, your business will prosper.
  5. Instead of fragmenting your workforce to meet the current societal climate, think long-term and try to unite people instead of looking at just their differences.

At the end of the day, remember, we are dealing with what acclaimed writer, Isabel Wilkerson says in her book “Caste: The origins of our discontents” “Color is a fact. Race is a social construct.” And, this social construct is over five centuries old.

The optics will not make a difference however hard we try. Instead, we as individuals should take responsibility for living inclusively.


Diffusion of Innovations:

Lily Zheng:

Deloitte report:

Isabel Wilkerson:


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making decisions.