“Trading-room culture and intensity is not gender specific,” Mr. La Roche was quoted as saying by The Times in a 1996 profile. “It’s O.K. for a guy to slam the phone down on the trading floor.” But, she added, “Since I left the trading floor I have tempered my colorful language.”
Mr. Wadsworth was heading the firm’s Asian unit when Ms. La Roche was overseeing the cost-cutting project. “As head of Asia,” he said in an interview, “I would get a call from Elaine many mornings at 8 a.m., and she’d say, ‘Jack, do you know you have two nurses on the payroll there? You need to get rid of one of them!’ I learned quickly that you didn’t argue with her.”
If some subordinates were put off by her manner — one former employee told The Times that “her style is to manage through fear, intimidation and knee-jerk reaction” — most of the firm’s top executives saw her as a supremely effective leader and rewarded her with regular promotions and hefty paychecks.
“If we had a problem, she would solve it,” Mr. Mack said in a phone interview. “She was smart, a workaholic, who went at it a hundred miles per hour every day. When she had a vision or she needed to execute a project, she was very demanding. I don’t think anyone would have made those negative comments about her if she was a man.”
For the 1996 Times article, Ms. La Roche, who was 47 at the time, was asked how being a woman in a mostly male industry had affected her career. “It hasn’t made it easier,” she said. “I think that I am extremely sensitive about living in a glass box, that I recognize that issues of style with respect to women can unfortunately often be more important than issues of substance.”
Marie-Elaine Andree La Roche was born in Manhattan on Aug. 17, 1949, to Andre and Madeleine (Hanin) La Roche, and grew up in northern New Jersey. Her father, an immigrant from Haiti, was a civil engineer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; her mother, from France, was a schoolteacher.