Lioness has the unofficial transcript of the exclusive CNBC interview with Point72 Associate Director Lauren Bonner and CNBC’s Leslie Picker which aired on June 11 throughout CNBC Business Day programming. This was Bonner’s first-ever TV interview. Watch the interview or read the transcript below.
Leslie Picker: You decided to file this lawsuit more than 100 days ago. Why did you do it?
Lauren Bonner: Well, I joined the firm initially to build a technology platform that would help us uncover traits of greatness in investors. The idea being that we would be able to find, kind of off-the-radar and non-traditional talent, who had all the great intrinsics of an investor. And I love that work. And I — and I continue to love that work. But while I was there, what I saw over time, looking through the data, was that there was an institutional bias that was so entrenched, that it just made it pretty impossible for women to advance economically or professionally.
Picker: You’re still going to work every day. You came from work today. What has it been like since you filed?
Bonner: It’s awkward. But it’s also not that bad. It’s — I used to feel — come into work feeling pretty demoralized and now at least I get to come into work feeling a little bit more positive about what I’m doing.
Picker: You — you run Point 72’s talent analytics team.
Bonner: That’s right.
Picker: What does that mean for the purposes of this case? What types of information were you privy to that maybe other women at the firm may not have known about — that allowed you to highlight, you know, what you alleged to be patterns of discrimination and — and pay disparity?
Bonner: So I see all the relevant talent data about investment professionals — which means that I see things like female candidates coming out of college have to have GPS and SATs that are 20 percent to 25 percent higher than their male peers to get the exact same job. I see all kinds of data at — at really every stage.
Picker: Has your job changed at all since you filed the lawsuit?
Bonner: My role is the same but I’m a little bit less busy than I used to be.
Picker: Can you describe for me how you define the culture at Point72 and ways in which you were uncomfortable, as you laid out in the lawsuit?
Bonner: I think it was important to share some of the data so that people know that this is a purely — there’s a pure data-driven case. But I also thought it was important to share some of these other stories that bring color — to the environment, so people can understand what it’s like to walk past the president’s office or sit in his office while the word “pussy” is written on the whiteboard above his head. I think it’s important for people to understand what it’s like when a male colleague offers up his assistant for sex to another male colleague. I think people need to understand what that feels like and how absolutely degrading it is to try and feel like you have a professional presence when this is clearly how women are viewed.
Picker: Now you speak in the lawsuit about getting passed over for a promotion. Tell me about that experience.
Bonner: Well, I joined the firm. I built a cutting-edge technology platform that our president and many leadership said was groundbreaking and innovative. And then I was told that I was too aggressive to be promoted.
Picker: What does that mean “aggressive” — too aggressive to be promoted?
Bonner: I don’t know. I mean you certainly don’t build a cutting-edge technology platform by being a hothouse petunia. So it — I certainly had to be assertive and get things done. It’s confusing to be given — to be labeled with that word “aggressive” when it’s a culture of performance and men are specifically told to be more aggressive and to “break more china.” So I don’t really know what to make of it.
Picker: And this was told to you when you asked specifically, “I thought I was going to get this promotion. It didn’t happen. Why?”
Bonner: That’s right.
Picker: And that was the answer you were given?
Bonner: That was the answer I was given.
Picker: At the time that you filed the lawsuit, you had only been at Point72 for about 18 months. So how do you square away that the result of the denial for the promotion was a result of experience or lack of experience, versus your gender?
Bonner: Well, it couldn’t be experience because men with lesser and worse experience came in at a higher level than I did — off the bat. So it’s hard to imagine that that’s true. It’s also hard to imagine that it has anything to do with performance because I got the highest possible performance reviews. It was also impacted by the fact that one of the members of the promotion committee, which was 13 men and one woman, was a man who I had reported to HR for harassment, who was allowed to sway votes on the committee.
Picker: So you believe you were retaliated against?
Bonner: I do.
Picker: Critics of the pay gap would say that compensation is more of an art than a science in that there isn’t always a mathematically precise way to make compensation equal for men and women or for different jobs or for different demographics. What do you say to that?
Bonner: I don’t think this is a question of nuance. I am paid 35 cents on the dollar relative to lesser or equally qualified male peers in similar roles. My colleagues are paid 30 — female colleagues are paid also 35 to 65 cents on the dollar relative to their male peers doing exactly the same job. This is not a nuanced issue.
Picker: Is it ever the reverse? Did you ever see instances of women making more than the men, who were doing the same job?
Bonner: I’ve seen it in my previous roles. At my venture fund, I was the highest paid partner.
Picker: But not at Point72?
B: Not at Point72.
Picker: What’s been the response from other women since you’ve filed this suit?
Bonner: My sense is they don’t feel comfortable talking about it in the office. But I hear from a lot of them in the evenings when they do feel safe sharing their own stories and sharing support.
Picker: Women at Point72 have come to you?
Bonner: Women at Point72.
Picker: And outside of Point72? Have you also heard from other women across Wall Street?
Bonner: I have. I have.
Picker: With similar concerns and complaints?
Bonner: Yeah — I’ve heard from women really all over the world who have shared their stories, shared what — the fights and the struggles that they’ve been through. They’ve shared support.
Picker: What’s the number-one issue that these women have? Is it — is it the pay gap? Is it discrimination? Or is it harassment?
Bonner: Well, that’s all rally some version of discrimination. It all comes down to really feeling harassed and the pay gap always comes up.
Picker: Do you think more women will follow you?
Bonner: I don’t know. I think it’s a good question. I think for me, at least, I hit my limit. I got really fed up. And maybe other women haven’t hit their limits yet. I don’t know. But I also think it’s — it’s also really scary for these women. There’s a reason that more stories hasn’t — haven’t come out. And it’s not for lack of stories. They haven’t come out because of this, kind of, culture of this small boys club culture that you really have to know other people to get jobs. And so there’s a real fear that you just won’t land another job if you upset the apple cart in any way.
Picker: There’s a fear of retaliation?
Bonner: There’s massive fear of retaliation, exactly.
Picker: Is that a concern of yours?
Bonner: It is a concern of mine, but I also think I’m pretty lucky. I have — I’ve had a great career track record so far. I’ve got a spectacular support system. And I have a good network. So I’m not that worried about not finding another job. And I don’t have mouths to feed. I don’t have a mortgage. I’m in a — if I don’t do this — who will?
Picker: What was the final straw for you that caused you to file?
Bonner: It was hearing other women’s stories, but it was also being there and knowing that these other men who have less and worse objectively experience are getting paid double and triple what I’m making and then seeing these other women who are — have great talent, contributing significantly to the firm, getting passed over, getting sidelined, getting demeaned. It just — really hit my limit.
Picker: I think a lot of people in your position would have just quit. What was it that made you say, “No -— I want to see this through. I want to go the litigation route to find a conclusion here.”
Bonner: I certainly tried to make change internally. And I just couldn’t let it go. I just — I just couldn’t walk away from the problem. It’s too important. It was too blatant and it’s been going on for way to long. And I just – I just couldn’t help but fight it.
Picker: In a statement to CNBC, Point72 said: “Contrary to Ms. Bonner’s assertions, this lawsuit is replete with allegations that are false or based on unsubstantiated hearsay and that she never brought to the attention of Firm management. Point72 was already addressing the underrepresentation of women and minorities – a reality across the finance industry — with a series of initiatives designed to recruit and support them before Ms. Bonner was hired. In fact, she was involved with some of those initiatives. But instead of working with us constructively to advance our goals of diversity and inclusion – and after only 18 months of employment at the Firm – Ms. Bonner demanded $13 million, and sued when that demand was rejected.”