Spend enough time in any male dominated industry and you will experience a certain amount of locker room, or ‘bro talk.’ Most of the time it takes place among men-only crowds, the historical and continued under-representation of women in trading and management positions makes the absence of women more commonplace. There are occasions, however, when a woman is present and her desire to perhaps be “just one of the guys” gets an unwanted challenge and finding her voice to speak up is difficult. For me personally, I can recall times when I was guilty of not just remaining silent in the presence of ‘bro talk’ but even engaging in it. While I cringe when recalling some of those moments, they helped identify and acknowledge my own biases while providing me with the desire, the wisdom and the courage to get it right the next time.
As the one-year anniversary of the #MeToo movement approaches, most would agree that while progress has been made we have a long way to go in doing away with old behaviors, stereotypes and biases, particularly in the financial services industry. In order to effect meaningful, generational change we need to continue to work together in our effort to break through gender barriers and push back on the constructs that have allowed and still allow these issues to continue. We need to be mindful that who we are as individuals as well as an industry is reflected not only in our words and actions but also in our silence.
We all make mistakes and there will always be missteps in judgement. When we are intentional in our choices, however, these missteps will get smaller and occur less frequently. I have recently again been reminded that silence can be just as powerful as any word or action. Our silence on those occasions speaks volumes; it gives tacit acceptance of the inherent biases and behaviors that plague our industry and serves to endorse those same behaviors and biases in its practitioners, regardless of intent.
It is incumbent on both men and women to be intentional with our words and actions, and to be mindful that sometimes it is our silence that is the greater reflection of who we are as an industry. Where we go, who we want to be and how the world will see us are always reflected in both, and all moments, big and small, have power. What we choose to do in those moments is on us.