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Nightmare on Wall St. for women

New York, Nov. 17: A book that exposes the full extent of sexual harassment against women working in Wall Street, and claims that the firms they work for condone it, is being snapped up by Hollywood after its publication last week.

Susan Antilla’s disclosures in Tales from the Boom-Boom Room range from the foul language used in trading rooms to examples of public sexual assault and alleged rape. Five Hollywood studios are competing for the rights to the book, which centres on the battle of Pam Martens, a former trainee broker, against the men’s behaviour.

Antilla said: “The message is that this sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated. Legal action has made it more difficult to get away with grabbing breasts and buttocks and hanging bras from the ceiling to throw tennis balls in the cups, but there are still too many problems out there.”

The title of the book refers to a basement recreation room, complete with a disco-ball and a bar, built in the Long Island office of what was once Shearson Lehman Brothers, which later merged with Smith Barney.

According to Antilla, Lori Hurwitz, who started as a trainee broker at the office, said the men she worked with referred to women as no more than sexual organs.

“The trainer assigned to her had opinions on the uselessness of females as sex partners after they bore children. He said: ‘As soon as a woman squeezes out a kid, you stamp a “million dollars” on the kid’s forehead and “stretched goods” on the woman’,” said Antilla.

Girls would be sent in celebration to male brokers and ordered to perform lap-dances in front of female colleagues. Antilla describes how one woman suffered the humiliation of having her pants pulled down in the public trading room. When she complained, the manager laughed, and said that he would “rape” her.

The book offers a catalogue of outrageous behaviour that took place during the 1990s, and which only improved after a 1998 class-action law suit was settled. Lydia Klein said a trader sent her a calzone pickle shaped like a penis and would regularly stare at her breasts and ask: “How they hanging'”

A broker would send condoms to women colleagues through the pneumatic tubes that transported documents and, in a California branch office, a broker pushed a clerical assistant against the wall, put his hand up her skirt and rubbed himself against her. A broker in New Jersey would ask a female colleague every morning whether she had masturbated before coming to the office.

During the 1990s, Martens led a rebellion by women and started a “class action” case against two big brokerage firms, Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch.

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