Chances are excellent that you are one of the countless decent men out there who are no more likely to sexually harass a woman than eat paste! However, there is no denying that the #metoo campaign has put fear into the heart of many a man (financial advisors included).
One can almost hear the collective gears grinding of legions of men questioning themselves – “have I ever done or said anything that could be misconstrued?” Again, I repeat, the odds are that you haven’t – but attitudes run deep. And while we are not talking about hugely egregious acts, à la Harvey Weinstein, you probably are guilty of built-in biases and attitudes that show up in our everyday lives (most of us are). Whether it’s the use of an unfortunate word or phrase or making assumptions about women being less capable and more emotional, it is time to come to terms with the reality that even these “minor” oversights are all harmful.
The point we are making here is that the #metoo campaign, powerful though it is, is the tip of a very old and very large iceberg.
Far too long, women have accepted being sexually harassed, bullied, ignored and underpaid as a standard that was just too hard to change. Being pegged the “weaker” sex meant having no voice, no power, no money – it meant being relegated to the back benches. Humiliatingly, women have been stuck in a time warp, forever “the little woman behind the great man”! Appallingly, women who spoke out and demanded better and/or more – were branded trouble-makers, and they quickly learned to stay quiet.
For obvious reasons, historically, this paradigm suited men. Being in a position of power is a good place to be and hard to give up. In worse case scenarios, as we’ve seen through the #metoo campaign, this power imbalance played out as blatant abuse of women – physical and mental, by men (in all industries). But there are many “shades of gray” as the saying goes. It’s not always about sexual abuse, women are dismissed and disrespected in a myriad of subtle ways – ironically, as often as not by well-meaning men who don’t realize the harm.
The financial community, probably one of the last bastions of male dominance – and one of the slowest to change attitudes about women, is a perfect example of this type of historical dismissing of women.
Even today, when women have more financial power than ever before in history, when they have more education than most men and frequently out earn their male partners, the financial community continues to either ignore their potential value altogether or at best treat them as a niche market and create “pink” brochures. They have yet to wake up to the fact that women are no longer satisfied with being treated as a secondary market/client – they are THE client and are demanding services that they can connect with – on their terms.
It seems women have finally found their voice in all quarters and they are not likely to give it up. In a sense they are saying “you too.” We all stand accused: women who don’t speak out, women who teach their daughters to be quiet, men who use their power to control and abuse women / to keep them in their place, even society at large for not enacting more equitable laws!
Changing entrenched norms takes time, and wheels turn slowly – but women are refusing to wait any longer – they have become impatient and they are voting with their voices, wallets and feet – they are leaving financial advisors and institutions that don’t serve their needs – they are looking for alternatives.
What can you do as a male financial advisor to shape the future – your future? You can start by listening to women, by learning what they want, by including them in the conversation. What does respect in your industry look like to women? How do women want to interact with their advisor?
Create your own hashtag — #mypart – and make it mean something, make it mean that you are doing your part to level the playing field for the benefit of all – your daughters and sons!
What’s your part? Let us know @StrategyMrktg using #mypart