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The litany of revelations about the abuse of women in the workplace has overwhelmed and disgusted many. Much of this conduct is not “sexual harassment” – it’s criminal assault and should be treated as such. Calling it “sexual harassment” trivializes behavior that should rightly be labeled rape, kidnapping and assault and battery, among other violations of the criminal statutes.

In response to the parade of vile perpetrators of sexual misconduct, here’s a step that we can all take to help women. I’ve already taken it.

Treatment of women advisors

I give presentations at many advisor conferences. Recently, I’ve sought out female advisors and asked them for their personal experiences. While none (fortunately!) reported egregious physical conduct, almost all of them felt they were discriminated against in more subtle ways.

Some reported persistent, unwanted advances from male colleagues. Others talked of being excluded from firm outings geared to male-oriented activities. None felt they were on a level playing field with their male counterparts.

This more subtle form of discrimination is very insidious and difficult to combat.

My own behavior

When I examined my own behavior, I identified some ways that I was part of the problem. I get a number of requests for referrals to advisors and financial planners. Most are from smaller investors, but recently I received a request that could generate very significant assets on an ongoing basis.

I examined the way I handle these referrals. I refer to advisors I know. The vast majority of those advisors are male. I don’t consciously refer to men to the exclusion of women. I just never thought about it before.