Published Articles

Industry Gender Bias Roll

SuperUser Account posted on June 16, 2011

By Danielle Sottosanti June 16, 2011

Gender discrimination is common across the asset and wealth management industry, the majority of FundFire poll respondents say, a sentiment expressed in the wake of a class-action lawsuit that cost Wells Fargo Advisors $32 million in a settlement.

More than two-thirds of those surveyed say gender discrimination is a moderate to severe industry problem. Indeed, about 41%, or 129 respondents, characterize it as very widespread, making it the most popular opinion expressed in a FundFire survey on the prevalence and severity of gender bias in the wealth and asset management industries.

Meanwhile, 27%, or 85 respondents, say that it is a moderate problem. That opinion ranked second in the poll. Roughly, 18%, or 58 respondents, acknowledge that such discrimination happens, but say “it’s not a major concern.”

And about 14%, or 45 respondents, say that it happens rarely, if at all. That was the least-popular response in the poll.

Expert opinion is mixed on the prevalence of gender discrimination in the industry, though most industry observers agree that the industry is dominated by men.

Sexism and racism both have dropped significantly, according to Rick Rummage, president of The Rummage Group, a career consultancy and executive search firm that specializes in the financial services industry.

Ageism has become a bigger problem since the financial crisis, he says, adding that he has more middle-age white men looking for jobs than any other group.

“The good-old-boy network of the ’60s, ’70s and even ’80s is kind of… taking its last gasp of air,” he says, noting that he hears more about diversity hires now than ever before.

Likewise, recruiter Carri Degenhardt-Burke, founder of Degenhardt Consulting, says that she is “approached all the time by senior management from many different firms, asking how to attract females into their workforces. It’s a primary concern to them and is not lightly taken.”

However, employment discrimination attorney Jack Tuckner says that women earning seven-figure salaries are still relatively rare.

Over time, women certainly are getting promotions and running divisions, but they are still in the minority, he says, adding that there is an element of “tokenism” involved. He is a co-founder of the law firm Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser, which concentrates on employment discrimination issues that affect working women.

Part of the underlying issue is the industry’s culture, which is somewhat unharmonious with female-based thinking and planning, Tuckner says.

Men will continue to dominate the industry by default, Rummage says, adding that he thinks there needs to be more women in the industry.

“Women on average make better advisors, as long they put in the hours and have a competitive spirit,” he says.

Working long hours, however, is precisely an issue that factors into pregnancy discrimination, Tuckner says.

The recent FundFire poll results represent a slight overall increase in respondents’ perceived prevalence of gender discrimination compared with a similar FundFire poll conducted nine months ago. That survey showed nearly 65%, or 154 of the 240 total respondents, believe gender bias is a moderate to severe problem in the industry.

This time, more respondents – 129 compared with 94 in the previous survey – say gender discrimination is “very widespread” in the industry. Similarly, a higher percentage and thus a larger number of respondents say that it is a “moderate problem” in the more recent survey. A larger percentage of the previous survey’s respondents said it happens occasionally, while an equal percentage and number of respondents say that “it happens rarely, if at all.”

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, 317 FundFire subscribers had participated in the most recent poll, which is an unscientific sampling of the publication’s subscribers.

Readers could vote only once, on a voluntary basis. FundFire’s audience includes financial advisors, asset managers, institutional investors and service providers.