A woman in the financial services industry who was raped four years ago at the home of a former colleague is speaking out for the first time since the attack. Her story and others like it are garnering more attention and discussion in light of crude comments made by investment advisor Ken Fisher, which have put a fresh spotlight on all types of bad behavior in financial services — including those that are criminal in nature.
After “processing it” and discussing it with a therapist and others, “I’m now empowered … to bring awareness that [rape, along with physical and verbal harassment] exist and for us all to be allies” against them, said Mary Moore of Advice Pay, an online billing and payment platform for financial planners. “So now when others see something [untoward happening], they will stand up.”
Shortly after she was raped, Moore described what happened to her to another person, “She did not believe me. And if a victim gets a negative reaction immediately then they will not share [the truth] with others. I want those who hear [about these incidents] to know how important it is to believe [the victims]. And I hope those who have had this experience know that they are not alone and that they are supported.”
She and her husband Alan Moore, CEO of XY Planning Network, believe the media should be willing to publish stories from anonymous sources, since many victims are not comfortable sharing their names and then their stories do not get told. They want women “to be aware and empowered” by such accounts, Alan said.
Mary recently shared her story with Sonya Dreizler, who was present when Fisher made his recent lewd remarks at the Tiburon CEO Summit on Oct. 8. Dreizler, head of the ESG-investing consultancy Solutions with Sonya, spent the past year or so working on a blog series with “real stories of sexual harassment, assault and discrimination” in the industry.
In one blog posted in October, Dreizler recalled an event when she was “invited up to a fellow attendee’s hotel room, propositioned at a networking mixer and invited to a strip club for a business meeting.” Similar incidents were told to her by 40 women, most of whom wish to remain anonymous.
She began requesting stories from women who had experienced harassment earlier this year and spoke with Mary and other victims before Fisher made his latest lewd comments. “The response was overwhelming,” she said in her introductory online post.
“Within 24 hours, dozens of women messaged me with their stories. As women who know me vouched for my ability to keep their privacy, more stories rolled in. … Women I have never met poured their hearts out to me. The palpable fear associated with telling these stories was also remarkable,” Dreizler explained.
Her aim for the “Do Better” series has been for members of the industry to genuinely and patiently listen “to women’s experiences to better understand the problem” before moving to address it,” she said. “Unchecked bad behavior runs rampant at many financial-services conferences,” she added.
In the blog series, the executive recalls talking with a group of men at an industry event, one of whom “made a joke about raping me; the other men in the circle either laughed or said nothing … . I have many personal experiences with sexual harassment, assault and discrimination, and almost every woman I know who has worked in financial services for an extended amount of time has her own set of stories.”
A key motivation for Dreizler’s writings on harassment is “the big gap between what women and men perceive,” she said in an interview. “While this may make sense, it’s frustrating for women on the receiving end of harassment.”
A recent Investment Advisor/ThinkAdvisor poll completed by over 1,350 respondents bears this out. The majority of female survey participants, 59%, say the physical harassment of women is somewhat or very common in the industry vs. just 27% or men. Most men taking the poll, 73%, believe the physical harassment of women is uncommon or nonexistent in financial services vs. 41% of women.
“I’d like men in industry to really understand the depth and breadth of harassment, assault and discrimination that happens in financial services, and that’s why I thought I needed to tell stories … that would resonate with them,” Dreizler said.
In this publication’s poll, the vast majority of women, 80%, believe the verbal harassment of women is somewhat or very common in financial services vs. less than half, 48%, of men. Only 20% of women say this behavior is uncommon or nonexistent in the industry vs. 52% or men.
In addition to the gap in perceptions of harassment and assault, “Women do not talk about [these issues] generally because it is dangerous to our careers,” Dreizler said.
“That’s why I thought about how I could make that leap for men not participating in this harassment to what women face. I could only do that by collecting the stories anonymously” and sharing them online, she explained.