WCM Applauds Jefferies Financial Group’s Real Leadership in #MeToo Backlash

By Camilla Sutton | Women in Capital Markets| December 21, 2018

WCM Applauds Jefferies Financial Group’s Real Leadership in #MeToo Backlash

After the first year of #MeToo, the world has awakened to the widespread abuses of women by men in positions of power. The hope for #MeToo was to put a stop to the sexual harassment of women in the workplace and inspire long-overdue cultural change by redefining what we culturally perceive as “appropriate behaviour”.

Despite its intentions, the #MeToo movement has faced extensive criticism, controversy and backlash, leading to some men (the minority in our circle) adopting strategies which have the potential to create a devastating gender segregation for women. Reports of men taking measures to ‘protect themselves’ against #MeToo accusations by avoiding and declining opportunities to work, meet, travel, socialize and interact with women, not to mention mentor or support their career development. 

WCM’s advice to date has been simple:

  • Women are asking for equal opportunity, equal treatment and safe working environments;
  • Treating any person differently than another because of their sex, race, sexuality, etc. is discrimination and it is illegal;
  • If anyone is confused of how to treat someone, remind them to treat them as they treat all others and to behave professionally.

WCM applauds the leadership demonstrated today by Jefferies Financial Group. In an end-of-year statement, Jefferies CEO Rich Handler and President Brian Friedman wrote:

“Many things in life are complicated or have shades of nuance that require serious analysis, debate and complicated decision-making.  Some things in life are obvious, straightforward and crystal clear.  In our opinion, this topic [#MeToo] falls into the latter category.  If you don’t know how to conduct yourself as a responsible, courteous and balanced human being, the fault lies exclusively with you and not with an allegedly flawed system designed to ensnare the innocent.  

Professional women want the same things that drive professional men:  responsibility, challenge, fulfilment, career development and trajectory, fair and just compensation and rewards, leadership opportunities and the chance to make a difference doing what they enjoy.  

The men who have uttered the above quotes (or think in a similar manner) are intentionally or wrongheadedly trying to defend unacceptable behavior by arguing that women choose to falsely accuse men of bad behavior and, in the process, are welcoming publicity, stigma, pain and tribulations as a short cut to career success and riches.  Seriously?   Do you have sisters, daughters, girlfriends, wives or mothers and have you ever spoken with them?....

… There is no excuse to exclude anyone from business meals, top-level meetings, presentations, mentoring, travel or social situations based on gender or any other designation.  It is always appropriate for the “best and brightest,” which we define only in terms of ability and competence, to have full access to every experience that can best advance our business and their careers….

….We choose fairness, integrity, transparency, inclusion, openness, meritocracy, and equal opportunity for all.”  
We encourage everyone to read the letter in full. At Jefferies, management is actively supporting an appropriate goal: that everyone be excellent at their job and to attain excellence, everyone needs to be included in every aspect of the work life. 

This is the kind of leadership that is needed now. WCM calls on other leaders to follow suit and set a clear message that this behaviour is unacceptable and that there will be zero tolerance for any form of discrimination.

Well done Jefferies. I suspect your exemplary leadership has and will continue to attract exceptional, talented professionals who share these values.

What is your reaction to the fact that the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women will be chaired by a man?