Advisory industry publications and social media have recently lit up with commentary regarding experiences and stories linked to vulgar language, as well as sexual harassment and assaults, happening within the financial services space and at conferences. To me, all these issues come down to respecting others.
As a result, I feel compelled to share some perspectives and advice via a three-part series. Today, I’ll begin by discussing disrespect.
First, disrespect in the form of words, actions and behaviors is a worldwide human issue. It doesn’t just exist in financial services, nor is it just a women’s issue.
In my nearly two-decade affiliation with the financial services industry, I have witnessed both women and men being disrespected. They are disrespected in different, personal ways, but it certainly does go both ways.
And, no matter which way it goes, it’s not fair and it’s never right. Yet, in my experience, the disrespect happens less than 10% of the time, and nearly all of it happens behind closed doors.
Respecting other humans has been one of the major topics written in literature, from children’s books to business books for centuries. And in that literature there is one common theme: Respect begins with you, and me, and everyone else.
True, real change begins when humans take responsibility for their own actions, words and behaviors. For respect to happen and for change to occur, we must act. Here’s where we can start:
1. If you are being disrespected — at home or work — I would encourage you to stand up and walk out. You may choose to be silent, but your actions in walking out of disrespectful situations speak volumes.
2. You must find the courage to stop disrespect with words, in the moment. If you are being disrespected by someone else’s remarks to or at you or another person, you can turn to whomever is disrespecting, and tell them to stop. Your words in the moment will command respect from others.
3. Physical or sexual assault and abuse is a crime — let’s not forget that. Also, victim suicides and attempts skyrocket in cases of workplace assault. Law enforcement needs to be informed immediately of an attack, whenever possible. And it’s best not to take matters into your own hands.
4. There are people all over the world who have been disrespected, and at times, it goes unreported and/or unexpressed when non-criminal events happen. However, for a human to truly heal themselves of the past, the story must be told without judgement.
Just listen. The act of bearing witness is the greatest gift a person can give to another person. As these stories in our industry come out, it’s important we remember that healing is the goal. Healing must happen before true change can.
With all that said, for any change to happen in financial services, we have to begin at home. Respect begins with you, being a better person when no one is watching.
My hope is that all people, across all industries and all places, can get stronger and better via more respect for all individuals — all of the time. What ultimately will define our industry will be the words and actions of women and men respecting each other.
Next week, I will specifically address disrespect toward women. And in the week following, let’s not forget, there is disrespect that also is happening to men.