The New York chapter of the WEN initiative struck a chord with a deep dive on #MeToo, a hashtag and movement which some have been eager to cash in on or sweep under the rug during their event, entitled #MeToo - why should companies care?.
“Non-disclosures should be for trade secrets, not harassment cases,” said one of the panellists, adding that the culture of settling complaints only encourages victim blaming and allows bad conduct to endure.
After the initial uproar in Hollywood last year, the #MeToo movement quickly gained traction across a range of traditionally male-dominated industries. Unfortunately, financial services was not among them. Settlements arrived at behind the scenes still play a key role in preventing incidents from becoming headlines.
In a way, the post-crisis compliance culture of policing emails and company chat forums has helped to clean up some of the bad behaviour that was rampant during Wall Street’s heyday in the 1980s and had persisted. But as long as the industry continues to minimise the importance of addressing what is a glaring issue, eliminating settlements and arbitration agreements is easier said than done.
“You don’t want to have a data breach to start thinking about cybersecurity," said another panellist. "It’s the same thing here… companies need to take good a hard look at their policies.
They added that unchecked behaviour does not just hurt female employees, but also damages the company’s reputation.
Whether the rest of the mess is cleaned up boils down to company leadership. Senior management owes to it their employees to ensure that the environment women work in feels safe to them and that they can speak up when it comes to uncomfortable issues without fear of retaliation.