With regard to gender discrimination in general, it would be hard to make a case that Wall Street has implemented dramatic change. I offered industry officials a chance to supply data showing that women stockbrokers had made progress, but was stonewalled. When I asked the trade group Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or SIFMA, what proportion of stockbrokers were women back in 1996, the year the Boom-Boom Room lawsuit was filed, and how that has changed today, spokesperson Katrina Cavalli said by email that she didn’t have those numbers and sent me to FINRA. When I contacted FINRA, which oversees brokers’ records, a spokeswoman said FINRA didn’t have those numbers and suggested I contact SIFMA. Next, I tried Merrill Lynch, which had set a target, in its settlement extension with the EEOC in the O’Bannon case, that 25 percent of its new broker hires would be female. When asked how many of Merrill’s brokers were women today, spokesperson Bill Halldin declined to comment.

A speaker at an industry conference in May cited data from a 2018 SIFMA diversity survey, reporting that only 17 percent of brokers in the industry are women. That’s 8 percentage points lower than the level the EEOC set for Merrill Lynch 39 years ago.

In one of the critical court cases from the 1990s, Merrill Lynch’s 1998 settlement with women in the Cremin case, the firm agreed to substantial changes in its procedures for distributing accounts of departing brokers. When a broker retires, quits, or is fired, the remaining salespeople stand to benefit greatly by taking over the departing brokers’ accounts. The women who sued Merrill had claimed that branch managers, most of whom were men, favored male brokers when it was time to distribute those accounts. In the settlement, the firm agreed to begin distributing those “based on non-discriminatory standards.”

But just as firms found a way to work around FINRA’s decision to allow discrimination claims into court, some male brokers found a workaround to the account distribution reforms. Many now work on teams, said Friedman, and many of those are all-male. If a broker retires or quits, his accounts would simply stay with the team members left behind — unavailable to others in the branch. “This is the reason that the repeated lawsuits are necessary,” she said. “We have to stay vigilant.”

The accountability failures have left their mark. A survey of financial advisers earlier this year by Investment News found that nearly 80 percent said sexual harassment remained a problem in the industry. A solid majority of women surveyed — 60 percent — said they had personally experienced sexual harassment at work.

Meanwhile, the leaders in a position to drive institutional change remain stubbornly male. Data from the Government Accountability Office paint a distressing picture of women’s ability to advance into management on Wall Street. GAO reports show that women’s share of management positions in the securities industry has been flat. One GAO report found that women held 32.4 percent of management positions in the securities industry in 2015; an earlier GAO report found that women held 33.8 percent of management positions in 2004.

Likewise, women who bring harassment cases today face the same hardball tactics that employers used in the 1990s and early 2000s, according to employment attorneys. “I don’t see any change,” said Nancy Erika Smith, the New Jersey employment lawyer. “It’s still attack the victim, obstruct discovery, delay the trial. That’s the playbook.”

Research assistance: Elena Mejia-Lutz, Richard Salame.