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Sexual harassment in funds industry climbs

Finance-Business-Woman-Portfolio-Hire-700x450.jpgAlmost a third of women in the asset management industry have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a new survey, as Fidelity and the Worldwide Healthcare Trust dismiss fund managers due to inappropriate behaviour.

A global survey by the Financial Times reveals 32 per cent of women working in asset management have experienced workplace sexual harassment, up from 20 per cent in 2014 and 25 per cent in 2016.

The number of women that have experienced sexist behaviour in the office has more than doubled from 2014, when it was a third, to 72 per cent today.

The survey of almost 600 asset management employees conducted between October and December comes as several star fund managers have been shown the door by their employers amid harassment allegations.

Two long-serving members of Fidelity’s $1.3trn equity division exited the firm in October amid claims against them of sexual harassment and sexist behaviour, while Worldwide Healthcare Trust manager Sam Isaly departed the £1.2bn investment trust this month under similar circumstances.

While 55 per cent of male respondents in the Financial Times survey thought inappropriate workplace behaviour had improved over the last five years, only 30 per cent of women agreed that was the case.

One female respondent said there was “immense misogyny” in the industry while another said she sees women “talked over, ignored and interrupted”. A mere 6 per cent of female respondents believed women are paid the same as their male counterparts for equal work.

Fifty-seven per cent of female respondents were in favour of quotas to improve diversity in senior roles with one respondent stating women had to work harder to receive a promotion in the industry’s “old boys’ club” environment.

University of California research published in October showed women in the US fund management industry fail to get promoted at the same rate as their male counterparts regardless of performance. Only 8.5 per cent of fund managers are female, according to Tilney Bestinvest.

Bev Shah, a former fund manager who founded the women in investment management network City Hive, does not think the survey findings represent an epidemic of sexual harassment in the industry, but instead indicates women feel more comfortable speaking out and being heard.

Hopefully the threat that a victim may speak out will become enough of a deterrent to stop behaviour that until now was going unchecked and was considered the norm,” Shah says.

Fidelity has hired a consultancy firm to review employee behaviour following its dismissal of Gavin Baker, who ran the $16bn over-the-counter equities portfolio. Robert Chow, who had been with the firm for almost 30 years, was also forced out due to inappropriate sexual comments.

Baker and Isaly have denied the respective allegations against them, while Chow has not commented publicly.

Morningstar has placed the Worldwide Healthcare Trust under review following Isaly’s sudden departure. He had managed the investment trust since its inception in 1995.

Analysts at Winterflood believe Isaly’s departure will have minimal impact on the fund because existing co-manager Sven Borho will provide continuity and will be joined by Trevor Polischuk to run the fund.


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