Wealth Man­age­ment Fares Worst in Study of Sex­ual Ha­rass­ment

From in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch­ing to be­lit­tling com­ments, woman ad­vi­sors face work­place en­vi­ron­ments that are far from wel­com­ing.

Financial Planning - - CONTENTS - BY AN­DREW WELSCH

When a male co-worker got too close for com­fort, he drove a fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor to leave a re­gional bro­ker­age firm where she had been work­ing for years. He gave other fe­male col­leagues shoul­der rubs they “did not want, nor ask for,” said the ad­vi­sor, who re­quested anonymity to share her story. He took it a step fur­ther at an off-site client event, she said, putting his hand on her mid-thigh. “It was so in­ap­pro­pri­ate, and I couldn’t say any­thing be­cause th­ese were all clients,” said the ad­vi­sor, who now runs her own RIA firm. “I ended up mak­ing an ex­cuse that I needed to get cof­fee, and I ran back to my ho­tel room. I was so scared.” De­spite high-pro­file law­suits such as the “boom-boom room” case in­volv­ing Smith Bar­ney more than 20 years ago, sex­ual dis­crim­i­na­tion and ha­rass­ment re­main stub­bornly un­re­solved prob­lems in wealth man­age­ment ― and fe­male ad­vi­sors point to what they say are work­place cul­tures that can feel dis­re­spect­ful, even toxic, and a weak com­mit­ment from up­per man­age­ment to pre­vent mis­con­duct. To bet­ter un­der­stand sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the work­place, Source­me­dia (which owns Fi­nan­cal Plan­ning and many other brands serv­ing pro­fes­sional com­mu­ni­ties) sur­veyed more than 3,000 in­di­vid­u­als from a range of pro­fes­sions, in­clud­ing wealth man­age­ment, hu­man re­sources and ac­count­ing. On the preva­lence of sex­ual mis­con­duct, the fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sory in­dus­try fared the worst. One-third of women in wealth man­age­ment re­ported a high preva­lence of sex­ual mis­con­duct in the work­place, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey, which in­cluded 385 pro­fes­sion­als in this in­dus­try. An­other 22% said they be­lieve the preva­lence of sex­ual ha­rass­ment is mod­er­ate, and 45% rated it as low. Be­hav­ior such as mak­ing be­lit­tling com­ments can cre­ate a bad of­fice en­vi­ron­ment, said women ad­vi­sors, who re­quested anonymity in or­der to share their sto­ries. In some in­stances, they’ve en­coun­tered in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch­ing and sex­ual ad­vances. Man­agers, they said, are of­ten in­dif­fer­ent. Unchecked at­ti­tudes some­times ex­tend to how re­sources are al­lo­cated and even to how clients and ad­vi­sors in­ter­act.

‘Prob­lem is In­clu­sion’

One in three women in the study said that they per­son­ally have been a sub­ject of un­wel­come sex­ual con­duct in the work­place. Their as­sess­ment is es­pe­cially prob­lem­atic for a busi­ness in which ex­ec­u­tives reg­u­larly tout their firm’s cul­ture to ad­vi­sors and clients. “The prob­lem is in­clu­sion,” said an ad­vi­sor who runs an RIA. “Once you’re there in the pro­fes­sion, are you feel­ing in­cluded? Part of the team? Do you feel wel­come? I think that’s why you see so many, many women launch their own firm. They de­cide they’re tired of the bull­shit.” When asked what types of un­wel­come con­duct they’ve seen in wealth man­age­ment work­places, 59% of women in the Source­me­dia sur­vey pointed to in­ap­pro­pri­ate per­sonal ques­tions, jokes or in­nu­endo. By com­par­i­son, only 39% of men said they’ve ob­served the same thing. “I’ve been told, ‘Wow, you’ve got your [lip­stick] on to­day,’“said a wire­house ad­vi­sor who re­sponded to the sur­vey. “I’m like, they’re lips. It’s not like I can hide them. What can I do? I guess the next day I’ll wear darker lip­stick. Was it

One in three women in the Source­me­dia study re­ported be­ing sub­jected to un­wel­come sex­ual con­duct in the work­place.

meant sex­u­ally? No, but it’s a com­ment that a man would never have got­ten.” Fe­male ad­vi­sors say they or their fe­male col­leagues have been sub­jected to in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments, de­mean­ing nick­names and jokes taken too far. The wire­house ad­vi­sor re­called a big pro­ducer in a branch of­fice who would re­fer to fe­male sales as­sis­tants as “my bitches.” The former re­gional BD ad­vi­sor said she once had a male man­ager who re­ferred to a sales as­sis­tant as “that old whore.”

Fear of Ex­clu­sion

Some­times the of­fenses are bla­tant and some­times they’re sub­tle, but in ei­ther case, women say, it’s hard to speak up for fear they’ll be seen as hu­mor­less, not one of the gang. “Some­times there are jokes, and there’s no ques­tion — no one thinks they are se­ri­ous,” the wire­house ad­vi­sor said. “But when you have 80% to 90% of the ad­vi­sors in the of­fice mak­ing be­tween $150,000 to $450,000, and the sales as­sis­tants are 80% to 90% women and their salaries av­er­age $45,000 to $50,000 … it lends it­self to a sit­u­a­tion where the men can say cer­tain things.” In­deed, even among fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors, there’s a wide com­pen­sa­tion gap. As of 2017, full-time fe­male ad­vi­sors earned just 59 cents for ev­ery dol­lar their male col­leagues earned, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the U.S. Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics. That’s the widest wage gap of all 150 oc­cu­pa­tions tracked by the sta­tis­ti­cal agency. (The sta­tis­tics track full-time work­ers, and ac­counts for weekly earn­ings, in­clud­ing base salary and com­mis­sions, but not an­nual bonuses.) Un­equal at­ti­tudes some­times per­me­ate ad­vi­sor-client re­la­tion­ships, too. An ex-wire­house ad­vi­sor re­counted a mo­ment early in her ca­reer when she joined some male col­leagues to meet with an all-male cor­po­rate board. “I’m the only woman, and I walk in and this [client] says, ‘Wow, it’s nice to have an at­trac­tive woman here for a change,’“she said, adding that sim­i­lar com­ments oc­cur all the time. An­other woman, who worked at

Al­though fe­male ad­vi­sors were less likely to en­gage in fi­nan­cial wrong­do­ing than their male peers, they were 20% more likely to lose their jobs if they did.

Smith Bar­ney and Mer­rill Lynch be­fore leav­ing Wall Street, noted the busi­ness has his­tor­i­cally been dom­i­nated by men, in­flu­enc­ing ev­ery as­pect of the busi­ness, in­clud­ing its nomen­cla­ture. Point­ing to phrases like “ap­petite for risk” and “risk tol­er­ance,” she said, “It’s like a male en­durance test.” Even Wall Street’s bronze mas­cot, the Charg­ing Bull, is a very mas­cu­line im­age, she said. But it’s not just a ques­tion of sym­bols. Some women said men got pref­er­en­tial treat­ment in ac­co­lades, re­sources and pay — and also com­pli­ance. The data backs them up. Even though fe­male ad­vi­sors were less likely to en­gage in fi­nan­cial wrong­do­ing than their male peers, women were 20% more likely to lose their jobs and 30% less likely than men to find new jobs af­ter wrong­do­ing, a 2017 study by three fi­nance pro­fes­sors found. “Fe­males face harsher out­comes de­spite en­gag­ing in mis­con­duct that is 20% less costly and hav­ing a sub­stan­tially lower propen­sity to­ward re­peat of­fenses,” the re­port said.

Un­even Dis­tri­bu­tion of Re­sources

The pref­er­en­tial treat­ment also ex­tends to how ad­vi­sors land big client ac­counts, women said. “There are ways that man­age­ment can help pro­duc­ers be­come big­ger pro­duc­ers,” said the former wire­house ad­vi­sor. Early in her ca­reer she was one of just two women in her wire­house branch of­fice. “They just didn’t put re­sources be­hind them in the way they did the big­gest pro­ducer and, boy, did he get some sweet­heart deals,” she said. Men and women don’t see eye to eye on the prob­lems, so it’s per­haps not sur­pris­ing they also don’t agree on so­lu­tions. Nearly three-quar­ters of fe­male ad­vi­sors say work­place cul­tural changes are re­quired, but only 54% of men say this, ac­cord­ing to Source­me­dia’s sur­vey. More than half of women called for in­creased sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing at work, ver­sus just one-third of men. And 7% of men said no changes were nec­es­sary. “I think the men just don’t know what’s ap­pro­pri­ate and not ap­pro­pri­ate,” a former Smith Bar­ney ad­vi­sor said. Cor­rect­ing bad be­hav­ior and mak­ing the work­place more invit­ing re­quires bet­ter HR prac­tices and com­mit­ment from lead­ers, she said. “I think it has to go beyond just watch­ing a video once a year that says, ‘You can’t do this; you can’t do that.’ It has to come from the leader in the of­fice say­ing, ‘We’re all im­por­tant here. Ev­ery sin­gle per­son. Ev­ery­one is a mem­ber of the team and should be treated well.’ I’ve never heard that mes­sage,” she said. Of course, get­ting man­age­ment to ac­knowl­edge prob­lems, let alone solve them, can be dif­fi­cult. The former re­gional bro­ker­age ad­vi­sor says she con­fronted the col­league about his be­hav­ior and he re­buffed her, say­ing his sec­re­tary was fine with it. Her boss also brushed her off, say­ing the man in ques­tion would never be­have in­ap­pro­pri­ately. “I think they don’t see it be­cause it doesn’t hap­pen to them,” the ad­vi­sor said. One male re­spon­dent to Source­me­dia’s sur­vey said ha­rass­ment isn’t pre­vented, and when it is re­ported, it’s min­i­mized as a per­son­al­ity con­flict. “We also fail to ap­pre­ci­ate that lit­tle things ac­cu­mu­late into big things over time,” he said. A man with about 50 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­dus­try said he wasn’t aware of overt sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the of­fices where he’s worked. How­ever, he noted that the pro­fes­sion has his­tor­i­cally hired few women ad­vi­sors. So­cial mores and the in­dus­try’s eat-what-you-kill men­tal­ity have tra­di­tion­ally hin­dered women, he said. “Men tend to take on more of the pri­mary bread­win­ner role, com­ing into the of­fice early and stay­ing late and com­ing in on the week­ends,” this ad­vi­sor said. “That tends to make a dif­fer­ence in a pro­fes­sion where you need to build up a busi­ness. I’ve seen suc­cess­ful women, but they are a mi­nor­ity.”

Beyond the Of­fice

Ef­fect­ing real change may also re­quire ef­forts out­side the of­fice, as work­place cul­ture isn’t iso­lated from what hap­pens out­side the branch, said the ad­vi­sor who owns her own RIA. She pointed to an in­ci­dent last year in New York’s Fi­nan­cial Dis­trict. A statue of a girl was placed by as­set man­ager State Street near the iconic Charg­ing Bull as part of a cam­paign to en­cour­age more com­pa­nies to add women to their boards. The statue, dubbed Fear­less Girl be­cause she ap­pears to be star­ing down the bull, was widely hailed as an em­pow­er­ing im­age for women. Days later, a photo of a man in a suit sim­u­lat­ing a sex­ual act with the statue went vi­ral. It’s not known if that man faced any reper­cus­sions, but imag­ine the mes­sage it would send to women if he had faced a public re­buke from his boss, she said. “Cul­ture starts at the top,” the ad­vi­sor said.

Nearly three-quar­ters of fe­male ad­vi­sors say work­place cul­tural changes are re­quired, but only 54% of men say this.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.