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80% of FAs Say Sexual Harassment Is a Problem at Work

February 11, 2019

The financial advice industry has kept largely out of the spotlight brought by the #MeToo movement on the prevalence of sexual harassment in America’s workplaces — but a recent survey suggests wealth management is far from immune from sexual misconduct.

Close to 80% of financial advisors polled by InvestmentNews say there’s a sexual harassment problem in the advice industry, and 13.1% say it’s a significant problem. Half of respondents say they’ve witnessed or experienced sexual harassment on more than one occasion, according to the survey of 345 advisors, 60% of whom were male, the publication writes.

And three in 10 respondents say they were targets of unwanted requests or contact, suggestive messages or remarks or even assault while at work, InvestmentNews found.

The extent of the problem is seen differently by men and women, according to the survey. More than a quarter of male advisors don’t see sexual harassment as a problem at all in the industry, compared to 17.1% of female advisors, InvestmentNews found.

While 44.7% of male advisors think it’s only as a slight problem, only 21.1% of female advisors do, according to the survey. And only 4.4% of male advisors believe the problem is significant, compared to 28.5% of female advisors, InvestmentNews writes.

Personal experiences vary widely between men and women as well: only 13% of male respondents say they experienced sexual harassment at work, compared to 60% of female respondents, according to the publication.

Every month, 19% of female respondents deal with unwanted physical contact, while 32% hear inappropriate questions, remarks or jokes, 14% get persistent unwelcome requests and 15% have to deal with obscene gestures, sounds or stares, InvestmentNews found.

And while advice firms may be touting their diversity initiatives, two-thirds of the survey’s respondents who were victims of sexual harassment say they never made a complaint, according to the publication.

The advice industry has changed since the 1990s, when female employees alleged harassment and discrimination in a lawsuit against Smith Barney Inc., which it settled for $150 million, Linda Friedman, founding partner of Stowell & Friedman and the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case, tells InvestmentNews. But the problem is far from eradicated — in fact, the industry could be backsliding, she tells the publication.

"It absolutely still exists," Katherine Liola, president of Concentric Private Wealth, tells InvestmentNews. "It's still very present."

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