Tough questions about sexual harassment in wealth management

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Why haven’t we heard more about sexual harassment in the wealth management industry?

Amid countless, heart-wrenching accounts about the personal anguish and professional setbacks caused by unwelcome sexual behavior in the entertainment, media and manufacturing industries, I’ve been asking men and women in financial services this question.

Many have said something along the lines of what Financial Planning contributor Carolyn McClanahan writes in “How small financial advisories can prevent sexual harassment": Much of the abusive conduct in the industry was addressed or went underground after a slew of well-publicized cases in the 1990s.

But it hasn’t gone away. Case in point: News stories revealing that a well-connected prime brokerage executive at Bank of America, Omeed Malik, was forced out in January after an investigation of allegations by female employees that he made unwanted advances.

That means it’s more important to ask a different question: What will we do to assure more women and men are treated with respect in the workplace? While there is a long way to go, I’ve been encouraged to see some firms and executives take action.

For one, Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson moved her office to the same floor where key equity portfolio managers, analysts and traders sit, after two fund managers left following allegations of inappropriate behavior.
Edward Jones has set a goal of increasing its women advisors workforce to 50% from about 19%, which, if successful, could help offset the power imbalances that allow some executives to get away with sexual misconduct.

And Advisor Group CEO Jamie Price tells me the firm is exploring how to share its C-suite level training and education with its advisor network.

There’s much more progress to be made, and it will come with renewed, honest and unblinking examination.

Still, there’s much more progress to be made, and it will come with renewed, honest and unblinking examination.

When you look around your firm, have you done everything you could to root out and prevent possible sexual harassment? Asking this and other tough questions is just the beginning.

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Gender discrimination Gender issues RIAs Practice management Wealth management Corporate governance Diversity and equality Abigail Johnson Jamie Price Fidelity Investments Advisor Group