Time's Up for the Wealth Management Industry

A recent survey made me feel deeply ashamed to be a part of the industry with the highest recorded prevalence of sexual harassment.
Time's Up for the Wealth Management Industry
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Founder and President at Vest Financial Group
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The #TimesUp movement has placed women's voices at the forefront of the conversation about inappropriate workplace behavior. Thanks to many brave whistleblowers, organizations are purging their rolls of toxic characters and upending traditionally stifling workplace cultures. While the past few months have seen some preliminary progress, there's still a long way to go, as made startlingly obvious by a recent Sourcemedia survey.

Related: Shut It Down, Bro: How to Avoid Toxic Culture at Your Company

Reading this article, I felt deeply ashamed to be a part of the industry with the highest recorded prevalence of sexual harassment. I can't say, over my long career, that I've never witnessed it, but the amount of my female peers who report this inexcusable treatment was jarring to me, and ought to be a wake up call for all of us. I take a great deal of pride in wealth management work. I've committed my life to providing a helping hand, being a voice of empowerment for people to take control of their own finances, and by extension, their lives. I'd be a failure if I didn't live out these same traits as an ally to women in the industry.

This goes beyond sexual harassment. The "good old boys" network that's dominated wealth management (and a multitude of other industries) has held qualified women back for way too long from well-deserved career opportunities. Initiatives to get to the bottom of the matter found several reasons, but they all boil down to the fact that women don't feel comfortable jumping into these careers the way that men do. Lack of role models, fear of imposter syndrome and concerns about work-life balance also contribute to the unfortunate -- and just plain wrong -- idea that women need to steer clear of wealth management.

There has been some encouraging progress, at least in the role models department. People like Cheryl Nash, president of investment services at Fiserv and mentor to hundreds, and Colleen O'Callaghan, manager of over $2.3 billion at Morgan Stanley, are just two high-achieving examples of great wealth managers who happen to be women.

Related: These Companies Are Battling Sexual Harassment By Teaching Employees to Recognize Unconscious Bias

Their success ought to offer clear proof that achievement in this field comes from getting the job done, not from filling some arbitrary idea of what a money manager looks like. I hope that they continue to act as the role models that the next generation of women wealth managers can count on, along with the other inspiring women I've been able to work with.

As men, we can do our part as role models, too. Those of us who recruit and shape the next generation of leaders should include women at all steps of the process. Educating their male counterparts will go a long way as well. Make it clear, from Day One, that discrimination is not to be tolerated. That means including women in important conversations that affect them, refraining from making inappropriate jokes or comments and recognizing their accomplishments with deserved acclaim (and yes, that includes raises and promotions when called for).

Men, it's as clear as day: When we help women, we help ourselves. Studies have proven that an emphasis on gender parity leads to better financial outcomes, including an estimated 5 percent boost in national GDP in the U.S. alone. Opening up greater opportunities to women isn't only the right thing to do; it makes the most sense from a business perspective and there are numbers that prove it. I'm known for speaking bluntly, so I won't stop now: When you don't listen to women's voices, you lose money. It's as simple as that, and any entrepreneur would be wise to keep this fact in mind.

Related: 4 Areas That Need to Change for Women to Achieve Equality in Business

This hits home personally, and not just because I've made my name in wealth management. This is a conversation I've had not only in the office, but around my dinner table as well. 

As the father of three school-aged daughters, I spend a lot of time thinking about the world they're about to inherit. As they and other young women their age finish school and enter the workforce, they deserve to find jobs where they're judged on the basis of their talents and work ethic without being subject to discrimination or worse. All young women deserve to fulfill their professional potential, and that's not possible when those in power don't invite them to the table.

I hope that the aforementioned survey, published this past March, will spur on more of my peers to take this cause seriously. In business, we're often accused of only acting out of financial interest, but the fact that suppressing women is bad for business shows how wrong that assumption is. Men are as emotional as anyone else, and too often we're letting fear and insecurity control us, compelling us to hold back those women who have earned their place in the halls of power. For an industry centered around planning for the future, too many of us have been dreadfully shortsighted in this regard.

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