Quitting Wall Street: Persevering against prejudice

JC Davies surrounded by topless men
Image caption Inter-racial relationships are an issue not often talked about in the US

JC Davies began working on Wall Street not only because it enabled her to escape the poverty of her childhood but also because it offered job security.

"The irony of that is too much," she says, reflecting upon a period in October 2008, when a reported 200,000 people were laid off by financial institutions in New York City.

"There are some people who choose to work on Wall Street because it is in their blood. They wake up excited every day and watch the stock market," she says.

"But I don't think they represent the majority. Most people do it for the money," she maintains.

However, her experience in the aggressive male-dominated financial sector hardened her.

It made her better equipped to cope when she faced recurring prejudices after leaving Wall Street.

Hidden identity

Ms Davies studied for a degree in public health and became a health care consultant.

When it turned out that she was not very happy with that, a friend convinced her that she had the capabilities and analytical skills to be a Wall Street analyst.

"There was a lot I loved - talking to management, learning about the companies and what people do - that part of the job was great," she says.

During her first job at ING Barings in May 2000, she soon realised there was a tendency to take women on Wall Street less seriously than their male counterparts.

"I had a colleague who was black and he said he was going to be more successful on Wall Street than me because people couldn't tell on his research reports that he was black, but they could tell I was a woman," she recalls.

She subsequently began using the abbreviation JC, so people would not be able to tell she was female.

"I discussed it with my boss - a catty woman who said 'Who do you think you are - JP Morgan?' and I have been JC ever since," Ms Davies explains.

Troubled times

Image caption Like thousands of other people, JC Davies lost her job after the 9/11 attacks on New York

Things did not always go smoothly for Ms Davies in her chosen profession.

When she was laid off after 11 September 2001, it took her seven months to find another job.

She was then a consultant at Rochdale Investment Management for six years, where she was frequently assured there would always be a place for her.

But then the entire financial system went into meltdown.

"I didn't have seven months' worth of savings, so this was actually much worse than the prior time," she says.

"On Wall Street, the number one rule is not to panic - but they always do," she muses.

"Suddenly I went home one night and realised the sky had caved in. It was back to square one," she says.

"The most disturbing part was that I hadn't actually made a ton of money on Wall Street and I'd just bought a home a couple of years before," she laments.

She says her first priority was not going into foreclosure, so she put her home on the market.

"That was probably the most heart-wrenching thing, because that was my stability," she says.

"I'd put a stake in New York City and I was going to live there for the rest of my life."

Career change

Two weeks after her home went on the market, her brother passed away.

"I decided I wasn't going to do things I didn't want for the sake of paying the mortgage and that I was going to do something that I felt was important," she says.

She began writing her book I Got the Fever, even though there were many occasions when she felt like quitting.

"When you talk about race and relationships, you get a lot of hate mail and people being nasty to you," he says.

Ms Davies bemoans the fact that Wall Street tried to make out that she was like some terrible slut.

"It is so sad that a woman leaves Wall Street to do something different and the first thing they do is start to tear her down. 'Oh she's a slut' or 'She's a loser'. There have been people trying to find out if I have done things illegal - none of that stuff pans out. Everything about me is beyond reproach," she insists.

"And a lot of times it is women, and we should be supporting each other and supporting the ability to do something different," she says.

"I didn't leave Wall Street to become a porn star. I left to write about race and relationships."

Confronting taboos

There are, however, a legion of fans saying bravo, who are pleased such issues are being discussed.

"Here in the US, race relations is such a taboo subject," she says.

"It is not like before, with racist comments about people's colour - now we are separating each other in other ways."

She says her blog allows people to broach subjects such as "I am dating an Asian girl, what should I do" or "I have a problem approaching a white guy, what do you suggest".

When asked when she will be writing her next book, she says: "Just let me make money of this one and then we will start a franchise and do other things."

And when asked if the people in the photo on the front cover of her book were Wall Streeters, she says: "On the most part, Wall Streeters don't look good naked."

She appreciates how easy it is to get misquoted and misunderstood, so with a laugh, she explains: "Most of the men on Wall Street are older with pot bellies."

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