After many years as an attendee and speaker at industry conferences, I continue to be bothered by the less-than-great part of being a woman attending financial services conferences.
The social side of financial services conferences is rife with harassment and sometimes even assault. I took to Twitter and wrote out a few thoughts, it was clear from the ensuing dialogue , that we need to talk about this more. The feedback was resounding and fell into five main categories: Women agreeing publicly and sharing their own stories and thoughts. Women agreeing privately, thanking me for bringing this to light, and not feeling comfortable liking, sharing, or commenting publicly for fear of career repercussions. Men shocked that any of this happens. Men offering support. Men harassing me, telling me to be quiet, or telling me not to shame all men by writing about people who are going to be bad anyway.
Below are six requests of men conference attendees to help make financial services a better community for everyone.
All of the requests are based on incidents that have actually happened to me or to women colleagues. These notes are for attendees. For notes on how speakers, sponsors, can make diverse conferences a reality, see here.
Three ways to be respectful of women in professional settings. Treat women talking to you as the professionals they are. A woman speaking to someone of the opposite sex, or attending a networking event, including at bars, does not indicate romantic or sexual interest. At the conference center or hotel - if a woman doesn’t want to get in an elevator with you, respect that boundary and let her ride in peace. You may not have bad intentions but she does not know that. Ask about her work. Chat about the conference. Ask who she’d like to meet at the conference and if you know that person, offer an introduction. Chat about personal interests. Treat women as respected professionals.
If you see these behaviors, talk to your fellow men & let them know it's not OK. Don’t joke about putting roofies in a woman’s drink. Date rape is real and it isn’t funny. If you hear someone else do this, please tell them it isn’t funny. Don’t drug a woman’s drink. Yes, this actually happens. If you see this happen, alert the woman and make sure she is safe. When she is recovered, ask her if she wants you to report the incident to conference management and/ or legal authorities. Don’t assume women you meet at events are attending as a spouse of a professional. If you make this mistake, apologize with candor and ask about her work.
Thank you for taking the time to consider these. As always, I welcome your feedback.