Sexual Harassment in the Financial Advice Industry
It is with much disappointment that I even choose that title for this week’s post. The reality is, that the problem exists in the industry I work in and that troubles me, but it should trouble all of us.
Investment News did a great job in sharing the findings of a recent survey in their article a couple of weeks ago titled: “Me Too: Even in the financial advice industry, sexual harassment is a serious problem”. You can find a link to the full article here.
Among the findings in the survey, 60% of the 124 women participating in the survey reported personally experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. While the reasons I would find this troubling are very similar to yours, there is another reason. I am the father of three daughters, one of whom is considering a career in financial advice.
Cherie Jolly, Chief Compliance Officer for Dynamic, had this to add, “I have worked in the financial industry for nearly 30 years and have seen, and unfortunately been on the receiving end of harassing behavior several times throughout my career.”
In an industry already dominated by males, it is no surprise that the survey goes on to add that approximately 40% of the women surveyed “…said a personal experience with sexual harassment played a role in a subsequent career decision — such as going independent, or leaving a firm or the industry altogether.”
And it doesn’t start with their professional lives, all three of my daughters (one in college, two in high school) have been the victims of sexual harassment already to some degree. My youngest daughter was one of several victims in an incident while in middle school, in a Washington, DC museum while on a school field trip. To her credit, she was willing to travel back to DC to testify against the perpetrator, who later agreed to a plea deal.
In my work as an advisor, I work with many single women or female heads of household and it has created an awareness for me that most, if not all of them, have experienced some sort of harassment at some point in their lives.
Typically, I would close my comments with a solution (or potential solutions) to an issue, but there really is no simple solution. It would seem pretty persuasive to say to potential perpetrators of harassment to imagine their female relatives being victimized before acting. The problem is, they don’t have to imagine it – IT IS HAPPENING to their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters – and it hasn’t stopped.
I am, however, encouraged by the actions taken by the Financial Planning Association (FPA) and others to institute policies that could result in conference attendees being barred and other consequences for violating a code of conduct. Let’s hope this is just one step, of many, to rid our industry of this issue, and have a positive impact on the communities we are already a part of.
Ms. Jolly summed it up by saying, “The “tone at the top” of every organization plays a huge part in whether or not this type of behavior is tolerated inside of a firm; it starts and ends there.”
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