Men 24 times more likely than women to feel bonuses 'unfair'

Wall Street's five biggest banks had a banner year in 2010, racking up their second-highest revenues on record, and to celebrate they put aside some $90 billion for year-end bonuses. But an informal poll suggests that more than half of the people receiving those bonuses feel they aren't getting enough.

Vanity Fair's Foster Kamer went to Wall Street and carried out an informal poll asking bank employees how they felt about their bonuses. He found that, of the 98 people surveyed, 56 percent said their bonuses were "not enough."

Sixty-one percent of those polled said they received a bonus this year, while 39 percent said they didn't. Even if all the respondents who didn't get a bonus were among those who wanted more, that still leaves about one-third of those with bonuses wanting more.

"Of the 61 percent who said they received a bonus, 85 percent were men — and just 15 percent were women. And we really tried to talk to women," Kamer writes.

But since only 17 of the 98 people surveyed were women, that statistic indicates a general lack of women on Wall Street more than it suggests discrimination in bonus payments. Kamer notes that men were "6.75 percent more likely" to get a bonus than female employees.

"Despite being 6.75 percent more likely to receive a bonus, the men who didn't receive bonuses were 24 times more likely to think it was 'unfair,'" Kamen writes.

Five of the respondents said they received bonuses of more than $250,000; none of them were women.

Kamer notes that the $90 billion set aside for bonuses amounts to more than the economic value of 13 countries.

Some economic observers see bonuses as being at the heart of the financial problems that led to the investment banking collapse of 2008 and the resulting government bailout of large financial institutions.

In his book Crash of the Titans, Financial Times writer Greg Farrell wrote:

The whole reason everything almost came crashing down in 2008 was twenty-five years of nonstop focus on bonus checks, on compensation. Why did Lehman Brothers go out of business? Because their people kept doing real estate deals long after the market had turned. It produced bigger bonuses for them. Why did AIG keep selling those foolhardy insurance police on CDOs? Because it was easy money and led to bigger bonuses.