Influential American financial adviser and blogger Michael Kitces has kicked off a viral discussion about sexual harassment in the financial advice industry.
In a recent post, Mr Kitces, a partner of Pinnacle Advisory in Washington, DC and co-founder of the XY Planning Network, said financial advisers have an obligation to stand against sexual harassment and misconduct that occurs in the industry, especially at conferences.
“Inappropriate and belittling comments … are still being made towards female advisers at industry conferences today,” Mr Kitces wrote.
“For instance, at the recent FPA NorCal conference, a conversation that I was having with a group of female colleagues – including fellow advisers and several industry-leading consultants – was interrupted by another adviser who proclaimed the semi-circle of women I was speaking with looked like a ‘harem’. As though it’s ever appropriate to compare professional female colleagues to concubines!?
“Similarly, it’s still all too common for women at advisory industry conferences to receive comments like ‘Whose assistant are you?’ or ‘What do you actually do at your advisory firm?’ with the implication that it couldn’t possibly be working as a financial adviser … even for a woman who prominently displays her CFP certification and a firm that’s named after her!”
Mr Kitces’ post has sparked a conversation about how witnesses should respond to sightings of sexual harassment and handle perpetrators.
“As someone who has witnessed this behaviour, and often said nothing – out of a sheer lack of knowing what to say – I regret not taking a more active role in trying to stop it and saying something when I see or hear inappropriate behaviour at advisory industry conferences,” he wrote.
“And the reason I regret it is ultimately, I don’t see us making progress in gender diversity for advisers if we can’t figure out how to stop these kinds of comments that are made far too often and regularly at adviser conferences.”
The post attracted more than 70 comments and was circulated widely on social media.
It comes alongside the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements against sexual harassment that are escalating in industries such as entertainment, technology and law.
It also comes as the Australian federal government has announced an inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace in conjunction with the Australian Human Rights Commission.
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