The number of female CFP professionals has remained stubbornly pegged at 23% for nearly 15 years, despite an ever-growing effort of the industry to attract more women. Because unfortunately, even as the profession seeks to build awareness and draw more women into financial planning, the positive impact is limited by the amount of sexual harassment and demeaning and belittling comments still directed at women by “fellow” advisors at the typical advisory industry conference.
In this week’s #OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces, my Tuesday 1PM EST broadcast via Periscope, I share recent and unfortunate case-in-point examples of inappropriate and belittling comments that are still being made towards female advisors at industry conferences today, and explore what needs to be said to curtail problematic behavior.
For instance, at the recent FPA NorCal conference, a conversation that I was having with a group of female colleagues – including fellow advisors and several industry-leading consultants – was interrupted by another advisor 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 advisor… even for a woman who prominently displays her CFP certification and a firm that’s named after her!
Yet I’ll confess that even as someone who has witnessed these kinds of disparaging comments, and am incredibly frustrated by them as well… I still struggle to figure out what, exactly, to say in order to break the cycle. As unfortunately, calling out offenders and trying to publicly humiliate them for their offensive comments is more likely to just make them defensive and run from the situation, instead of gaining some empathetic perspective and actually acknowledging and recognizing how their comments may be so demeaning to their female colleagues.
The bottom line, though, is that as someone who has witnessed this behavior, 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 behavior at advisory industry conferences. And it’s something I intend to address more proactively going forward. But I hope you’ll share your comments at the end of this article with your own perspective, on how best to have this conversation in the first place? What do you say when you witness sexual harassment at a financial advisor conference?