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Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Persist in Financial Services, FAs Say

April 10, 2018

The majority of financial advisors, be they male or female, believe the financial services industry suffers from sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, WealthManagement.com found. But how women and men view sexual harassment and discrimination differs widely.

Seventy-nine percent of men and 92% of women agree that there’s sexual harassment in the industry, according to a survey of more than 300 financial advisors conducted by the web publication. Yet while around 45% of men believe it’s rampant or a common occurrence, over 68% of women think so, WealthManagement.com found. And while 47.6% of male advisors think the industry has improved — and only 2.4% think it’s gotten worse — 40.9% of female advisors believe there’s been an improvement and 5.4% think it’s actually gotten worse, according to the survey. Women financial advisors are also far more likely to experience harassment themselves: 59.4% say they were targets of harassment compared to 8.9% of men who say they were, WealthManagement.com writes. And while just 24.5% of female advisors say they’ve never personally witnessed or encountered sexual harassment at work, 67.3% of male advisors say they haven’t, according to the survey.

The differences between male and female advisors are even starker when it comes to sexual discrimination in the industry. While 54.5% of male advisors say there is discrimination, 86.7% of female advisors say so, WealthManagement.com writes. And 81.6% of female advisors think it’s rampant or a common occurrence, compared to 58.4% of male advisors who think so, according to the survey.

Advice practices may have some catching up to do. All the firms WealthManagement.com spoke to say they have policies in place to report harassment at work. Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Raymond James and RBC tell the web publication they have hotlines where misconduct can be reported anonymously. Yet 39% percent of female advisors believe their employer has no mechanism in place to report sexual harassment, compared to 28.6% of male advisors who think so, WealthManagement.com writes. And 65.9% of female advisors say they never used such protocols, compared to 54.5% of male advisors who didn’t, according to the survey.

Women in financial advice still hesitate to come forward about the harassment they’ve experienced despite the wider #MeToo movement, WealthMangament.com writes, citing numerous letters from female advisors. The reasons for doing so include fear of retaliation, getting ostracized from the firm, or belief that complaints would be dismissed as frivolous, the publication writes.

“The culture was such that I did not believe management would do anything,” one respondent wrote to WealthManagement.com. “When I mentioned it to management in my annual review (not a formal complaint or filing), they laughed and said it was ‘the nature of the beast.’”

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the Wealth Management article cited in this story, click here.
  • To read the Wealth Management article cited in this story, click here.