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#MeToo - Has It Made a Difference?


David
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I was reading through my usual sources of news this morning and this article popped up on the WSJ, written by two female journalists. It's an interesting snapshot of how big companies are reacting and dealing with the whole #MeToo movement;

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No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings.

In fact, as a wealth adviser put it, just hiring a woman these days is “an unknown risk.” What if she took something he said the wrong way?

Across Wall Street, men are adopting controversial strategies for the #MeToo era and, in the process, making life even harder for women.

Call it the Pence Effect, after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who has said he avoids dining alone with any woman other than his wife. In finance, the overarching impact can be, in essence, gender segregation.

Interviews with more than 30 senior executives suggest many are spooked by #MeToo and struggling to cope. “It’s creating a sense of walking on eggshells,” said David Bahnsen, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley who’s now an independent adviser overseeing more than $1.5 billion.

This is hardly a single-industry phenomenon, as men across the country check their behavior at work, to protect themselves in the face of what they consider unreasonable political correctness -- or to simply do the right thing. The upshot is forceful on Wall Street, where women are scarce in the upper ranks. The industry has also long nurtured a culture that keeps harassment complaints out of the courts and public eye, and has so far avoided a mega-scandal like the one that has engulfed Harvey Weinstein.

'Real Loss'

Now, more than a year into the #MeToo movement -- with its devastating revelations of harassment and abuse in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and beyond -- Wall Street risks becoming more of a boy’s club, rather than less of one.

“Women are grasping for ideas on how to deal with it, because it is affecting our careers,” said Karen Elinski, president of the Financial Women’s Association and a senior vice president at Wells Fargo & Co. “It’s a real loss.”

There’s a danger, too, for companies that fail to squash the isolating backlash and don’t take steps to have top managers be open about the issue and make it safe for everyone to discuss it, said Stephen Zweig, an employment attorney with FordHarrison.

“If men avoid working or traveling with women alone, or stop mentoring women for fear of being accused of sexual harassment,” he said, “those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint.”

Channeling Pence

While the new personal codes for dealing with #MeToo have only just begun to ripple, the shift is already palpable, according to the people interviewed, who declined to be named. They work for hedge funds, law firms, banks, private equity firms and investment-management firms.

For obvious reasons, few will talk openly about the issue. Privately, though, many of the men interviewed acknowledged they’re channeling Pence, saying how uneasy they are about being alone with female colleagues, particularly youthful or attractive ones, fearful of the rumor mill or of, as one put it, the potential liability.

A manager in infrastructure investing said he won’t meet with female employees in rooms without windows anymore; he also keeps his distance in elevators. A late-40-something in private equity said he has a new rule, established on the advice of his wife, an attorney: no business dinner with a woman 35 or younger.

The changes can be subtle but insidious, with a woman, say, excluded from casual after-work drinks, leaving male colleagues to bond, or having what should be a private meeting with a boss with the door left wide open.

'Not that Hard'

On Wall Street as elsewhere, reactions to #MeToo can smack of paranoia, particularly given the industry’s history of protecting its biggest revenue generators.

“Some men have voiced concerns to me that a false accusation is what they fear,” said Zweig, the lawyer. “These men fear what they cannot control.”

There are as many or more men who are responding in quite different ways. One, an investment adviser who manages about 100 employees, said he briefly reconsidered having one-on-one meetings with junior women. He thought about leaving his office door open, or inviting a third person into the room.

Finally, he landed on the solution: “Just try not to be an asshole.”

That’s pretty much the bottom line, said Ron Biscardi, chief executive officer of Context Capital Partners. “It’s really not that hard.”

In January, as #MeToo was gathering momentum, Biscardi did away with the late-night, open-bar gathering he’d hosted for years in his penthouse suite during Context Capital’s annual conference at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. “Given the fact that women are in the minority at our events, we want to make sure that the environment is always welcoming and comfortable. We felt that eliminating the after-party was necessary to remain consistent with that goal.”

In this charged environment, the question is how the response to #MeToo might actually end up hurting women’s progress. Given the male dominance in Wall Street’s top jobs, one of the most pressing consequences for women is the loss of male mentors who can help them climb the ladder.

“There aren’t enough women in senior positions to bring along the next generation all by themselves,” said Lisa Kaufman, chief executive officer of LaSalle Securities. “Advancement typically requires that someone at a senior level knows your work, gives you opportunities and is willing to champion you within the firm. It’s hard for a relationship like that to develop if the senior person is unwilling to spend one-on-one time with a more junior person.”

Men have to step up, she said, and “not let fear be a barrier.”

 

This was always going to be the reaction in certain quarters, rightly or wrongly, especially when you're talking about men in positions where they have a lot to lose from any kind of claims against them or scandal.

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Employers thought the same way when unions were fighting for workers' rights. They behaved the same way in the 60s regarding civil rights and equality. There's going to be a lot of attrition and heart-ache, and a lot of innocent people are going to bear the brunt of it - but that's why it's seen as a struggle. It shouldn't be this way, but it almost always is, and a lot of it is down to the media scaremongering using the few bad examples to attempt to tar the rest of the movement in the same way.

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20 minutes ago, Carbomb said:

Employers thought the same way when unions were fighting for workers' rights. They behaved the same way in the 60s regarding civil rights and equality. There's going to be a lot of attrition and heart-ache, and a lot of innocent people are going to bear the brunt of it - but that's why it's seen as a struggle. It shouldn't be this way, but it almost always is, and a lot of it is down to the media scaremongering using the few bad examples to attempt to tar the rest of the movement in the same way.

Yeah, it's going to have somewhat of a negative effect on females in certain work places for a while it would seem, especially at the very top level as mentioned in the article, but hopefully it'll even itself out eventually.

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Why won't Pence dine alone with a woman? Does he consider himself that much of a ticking sexist timebomb that it's inevitable he will say something radically outdated and unacceptable? I think I've just answered my own question there, but it's fucking madness. That's clearly an act of sexism in itself, as he's not dining with somebody based purely on their gender.

And to answer the thread title question- has it made a difference? It has made some difference, but clearly there is still much more change required, yesterday's Balon D'or awards ceremony being a prime example:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46435168

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8 minutes ago, PunkStep said:

Why won't Pence dine alone with a woman? Does he consider himself that much of a ticking sexist timebomb that it's inevitable he will say something radically outdated and unacceptable? I think I've just answered my own question there, but it's fucking madness. That's clearly an act of sexism in itself, as he's not dining with somebody based purely on their gender.

And to answer the thread title question- has it made a difference? It has made some difference, but clearly there is still much more change required, yesterday's Balon D'or awards ceremony being a prime example:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/46435168

The argument of cunts like Pence is that the feminist movement is arguing in bad faith, that they're all out to hurt men because they hate them.

Never occurs to them that people don't wilfully go through that much grief and detriment to their own lives out of a baseless, vague sense of pique.

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9 minutes ago, PunkStep said:

Why won't Pence dine alone with a woman? Does he consider himself that much of a ticking sexist timebomb that it's inevitable he will say something radically outdated and unacceptable? I think I've just answered my own question there, but it's fucking madness. That's clearly an act of sexism in itself, as he's not dining with somebody based purely on their gender.

I think it's more to do with guys in certain positions with a lot to lose not wanting to take any unnecessary chances at all, simple as that. I'm not saying they're right, I'm just saying that this is how they seem to see it. They don't take risks that aren't worth taking in their jobs, and it looks as though they're approaching these types of situation in the same manner.

It's a shame though, because it's looking as though it's going to prevent more women from reaching their potential in industries like finance.

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With Pence it's because he's a mad arch-conservative Christian who calls his wife "mother" and refuses to be alone with another woman.

In terms of powerful men saying, "I won't get in a lift alone with a woman", or anything to that effect, that sounds far less like people legitimately scared of wrongdoing, and far more like people in a position of privilege being forced to actually consider people around them and modify their behaviour for the first time in their lives.

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6 minutes ago, UK Kat Von D said:

In all fairness, I also tried to read the full article and it was really difficult. Kinda felt like walking against a mild current of sewage for no particular reason.

I'm surprised you didn't break out in hives just clicking on the WSJ website to be fair, the rebel that you are 😉

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8 minutes ago, Guy Bifkin said:

It's certainly made me think twice about giving the girls in the office the traditional Bifkin goose at the photocopier.

Tell me your not doing away with the Bifkini Babes at the Christmas do?

There was a really good debate on this subject on BBC 1 last week. Personally I thought Sharon's comment that it's nice to have a man throw them against a wall every now and then, without realising the difference between that and rape set a bad example but it seemed to make Phil smile and Ian cringe so it wasn't a complete misstep.

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12 minutes ago, David said:

I'm surprised you didn't break out in hives just clicking on the WSJ website to be fair, the rebel that you are 😉

I didn’t click on a website because you copied/pasted the article rather than a link. The internet must be pretty confusing for someone old enough to remember all the underground punk thunder domes. 

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