While the new personal codes for dealing with #MeToo are just beginning to be felt, the change is already palpable, according to those interviewed, who wished to remain anonymous. They work for hedge funds, law firms, banks, private equity firms, and investment management firms.
For obvious reasons, few will speak openly about the issue. Privately, however, many of the men interviewed admitted to channeling Pence, saying how uncomfortable they were being alone with female colleagues, especially young or attractive ones, fearing the rumor mill. or, as they say, potential liability.
An infrastructure investment manager said he would no longer meet female workers in rooms without windows; he also keeps his distance in the elevators. A 40-year-old in private equity said he had a new rule, established on the advice of his wife, a lawyer: no business dinner with a woman 35 or younger.
The changes can be subtle but insidious, with a woman, for example, ruling out casual drinks after work, letting male colleagues bond, or having what should be a private meeting with a boss with the door wide open.
On Wall Street as elsewhere, reactions to #MeToo can sound like paranoia, especially given the industry’s history of protecting its biggest revenue generators.
“Some men have told me of their fears that a false accusation is what they fear,” said Zweig, the lawyer. “These men fear what they cannot control.”
There are as many or more men who react in quite different ways. One of them, an investment advisor who manages around 100 employees, said he briefly reconsidered meeting junior women one-on-one. He thought about leaving his office door open or inviting a third person into the room.
Eventually he landed on the solution: “Just try not to be an asshole.”
That’s pretty much the end result, said Ron Biscardi, CEO of Context Capital Partners. “It’s really not that hard.”
In January, as #MeToo gained momentum, Biscardi scrapped the open bar party he had hosted for years in his penthouse suite during Context Capital’s annual conference at Fontainebleau Miami Beach. “Since women are in the minority at our events, we want to make sure the environment is always welcoming and comfortable. We felt that eliminating the after-party was necessary to stay consistent with this goal. “
In this busy environment, the question is how the response to #MeToo could end up hurting women’s progress. Given the predominance of men in the top positions on Wall Street, one of the most pressing consequences for women is the loss of male mentors who can help them rise through the ranks.
“There aren’t enough women in leadership roles to single-handedly lead the next generation,” said Lisa Kaufman, CEO of LaSalle Securities. “Advancement usually requires someone at a high level to know your job, provide you with opportunities and be prepared to stand up for yourself within the company. It is difficult for a relationship like this to develop if the older person is unwilling to spend one-on-one time with a more junior person.
Men need to step in, she said, and “don’t let fear get in the way.”