“making a difference” in gender issues
in the business, said Pearl Planning
President Melissa Joy, CFP: “But as for
a tipping point, this is hard to say given
our low numbers. It’s hard to visual-
ize. It provides oxygen, or space, for
an important topic. The door has been
nudged open a bit wider.”
Members of the industry should
review their gender biases and address
them regularly, for instance. “Since I’m
a woman, people assume I want to focus
on only women clients, but I want both
men and women,” Joy explained.
The advisor appreciates “how many
men have stepped up, listened more and
are moving the conversation forward,
[but] our profession has lingered in its
percentage of women. It’s better than
some think, but it’s still so low, especially at the leadership level ... ,” she said.
“Unconscious bias plays out in advice
given to clients in many ways, in terms
of portfolios, decision-making, etc.,” Joy
said. “That story is unwritten. Along
with women having a safe and thriving
workplace, it matters.”
The industry has diagnosed its prob-
lem, and now its members need “to
speak up when [they] see or hear some-
thing, participate to elevate women in
this industry and stay curious” espe-
cially about biases, said Sheri Fitts, who hosts Women Rocking
Wall Street podcasts.
The Fisher developments represent “a tiny, tiny crack of
a window that’s been opened” rather than a “tidal wave of
change,” she said. The industry involves “too much money and
a [conservative] culture, and it moves too slowly. I’ve been in
the business for about 30 years. I hope I’m wrong.”
It’s too early to tell if this incident is the industry’s #Me Too
moment, says Nia Impact Capital CEO Kristin Hull. It may
bring more attention to how few women work in finance and
serve as a call to action for opening doors so more women can.
Wealth manager Robasciotti hopes “this watershed moment”
brings more people to the table and get leaders “to step boldly
towards an industry that works for everyone,” she said.
The real, lasting impacts of the Fisher comments and fallout
depend on the industry’s response, says FiComm’s Plonner,
who strongly believes this is the #Me Too moment for financial
services. The industry has been trying to solve its gender chal-
lenge for a awhile. “But this struck a nerve, and the industry
seized the opportunity to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” she said.
The tipping point that’s been reached is ambiguous, accord-
ing to Plonner: “It’s now a matter of who takes up the chal-
lenge and how they take up the opportunities at hand. Are we
going to do something, or … let it peter out? Are we going to
stop talking and start walking? Great things could come from
this. Time will tell.”
A few weeks after Ken Fisher
made his lewd remarks, the firm
he leads began running full-page
ads in The New York Times and
other papers. The ads showcase
women who work for the firm.
“These ad speaks to what it’s
like to work at [the firm] rather than address the original issue,” said April Rudin of
the Rudin Group. It “looks defensive, not offensive (i.e., ‘Ken won’t be involved daily
at the firm’), and holds out the women as somehow nullifying his remarks; it’s like
he’s using [them] to protect himself.”
According to Tina Powell of C-Suite Social Media, “There’s no story being told
[in the ad] really … . It’s the proverbial ‘adding insult to injury.’”
The firm, however, insists: “In recent weeks, women at all levels of Fisher
Investments have expressed their growing frustration with the false portrayal of
the company and its culture in the media, and they were looking for a way to share
their own stories, which they feel are being ignored,” according to a statement.
Fisher Investments has some 3,500 employees, 30% of whom are women. It
says 30% of managers and 23% of vice presidents and other leaders are female.
“I would say I understand and agree with some of the stuff that’s in the media
that Ken’s comments were inappropriate,” said Rachel Winfield, a vice president
who spoke to Bloomberg. “What Ken says and the experience of the culture are
two separate things.” Some women said they felt compelled to be in the ads.
The playbook for firms in crisis mode, says Kirsten Plonner, chief of communications for FiComm Partners, is to own up to any wrongdoing or malfeasance,
propose a solution and act on it. “Maintaining the status quo is not enough,” she
added. “They need to demonstrate real change.” — Janet Levaux
Sources: Bloomberg, CNBC and Reuters
Report of 125 FTC
complaints over Fisher
tactics; firm runs full-page ads with female
staff in several papers.
A Florida health
system says it will
pull $93 million from
Fisher’s firm, bringing
redemptions to almost
The firm says its
assets are about $115
billion as of Oct. 31.
A report reveals that
controls $6.2 billion of
$22 billion market for
Women employed by the
firm say they are divided
over appearing in ads,
according to a news story.