Can a woman succeed on Wall Street or is the hegemony of men so overwhelming that the chance of getting ahead is slim at best. I posed this question to honoree Ilana Weinstein who was being feted at the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund Gala where 570 people gathered at the Rainbow Room on a chilly Wednesday evening with ticket prices starting at $1,750 – with the overwhelming majority of attendees being men.
Ilana responded, “I feel totally comfortable in this industry which has been very good to me. Yes, I wish more women were involved but at the end of the day it is all about meritocracy and bottom line results – and that’s the ethos of the industry.” Ilana and I have a long history as she attended Harvard Business School when I was in the Law School, and I can remember our more frivolous days of mischief-making before the realities of life set in.
Tonight mega-moguls Steve Cohen (Point72 Asset Management) and Steve Tananbaum (GoldenTree Asset Management) came to pay homage to Weinstein and to the Lincoln Center Corporate Fund that rewards critical funds to 10 artistic organizations through the vehicle of corporations and firms that provide unrestricted gifts for music, opera, dance, theater, film, and educational programming.
Weinstein recalled the importance of exposing children to the arts as she was a ballet student and her son, Jordan, is an adept piano player. After attending Wharton and Stuyvesant, Weinstein worked at Goldman Sachs and Boston Consulting Group eventually starting her own executive search firm called IDW (her initials) which focuses on placing senior hedge fund and business professionals across the investment landscape.
She frequently appears on CNBC and Bloomberg and is obviously the real deal, but I couldn’t help but laugh when the managing director of a major firm asked if I could introduce him to Ilana. Steve Cohen remarked that Ilana ran the premier recruiting firm in the industry and joked that while switching jobs was a zero-sum game with nobody benefitting Ilana was the one person who reaped the rewards each and every time. Cohen praised Ilana’s tenacity while Steve Tananbaum referred to her as “The Queen Bee” remarking that everything she does she is “all in.”
Ilana whose busy schedule affords her little time for frivolities such as fashion wore a floral Luca Luca dress she purchased five years ago with kitten heels. She recalled growing up in a small two-bedroom near Lincoln Center where she and her brother Boaz, another hedge fund star, shared a tiny room with her working multiple jobs since the age of 14.
Anyone who knows Boaz and Ilana also know their mom Giselle who frequently, if not always, accompanies them in their endeavors – that is an excellent testament to their character. Ilana recalled her mother’s intense work ethic and how she would be awoken with the opera “Carmen” by her parents on the weekend.
She then called to the stage soprano Anna Cley who sang a powerful aria from “Carmen” in a sexy black gown. Later President of Lincoln Center, Russell Granet, said they had raised a record-breaking $1.7 million, and he was thrilled to finally be able to honor a woman in the world of finance. There is no better venue in New York to be feted than on top of the Rockefeller Plaza at the Rainbow Room where anything seems achievable.
After a buffet dinner was served and some delicious petit fours handed out female DJ Twilo rocked the crowd with some fun pop dance tunes. I found it nearly impossible to tear myself away from the generous space perched 65 floors above ground and only did so three hours later when a guard informed me they would be shutting the doors.