As calendar 2018 comes to a close, it’s not only the painful volatility and collapsing asset values that are on our mind. Markets will ebb and flow and business and investing cycles are as natural as the earth spinning on its axis and revolving around the sun. The thing that vexes us is the thoughtless, paranoid and fundamentally wrong reaction that many people in our industry are expressing about the #MeToo movement and many other efforts to assure fairness and decency in the workplace. In recent weeks, we have been disappointed to see reports in the media where various men state the following when it comes to the current state of women in the financial workforce:
“I will never be alone with a woman in a business setting.”
“There is a sense I now have to walk on eggshells.”
“Best way to avoid a problem is to avoid women.”
”I would never take the risk of mentoring a woman.”
“I can’t control a ‘false accusation’ so I will not take a chance.”
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 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, fulfillment, 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?
At Jefferies, we need all of us to be the best we can be, regardless of gender, age, race, color, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We care about only one thing: that you are excellent at what you do. To attain excellence, you need to be included in every aspect of our demanding work life. That is how one learns, develops, builds relationships, develops confidence and matures as a professional. 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 at Jefferies are far from perfect and more work needs to be done here and across the industry to create a level playing field. We will strive to get better in this important area, and having an inclusive mindset throughout our firm is the basic foundation on which we can all build.
Instead of the quotes above, we at Jefferies are proud to be defined by the following perspectives:
“I know the boundaries of appropriate behavior and am a good person so I know how to conduct my professional life.”
“I will do my share to make sure Jefferies is the best firm it can possibly be, and the number one way that happens is if we have diversity in people, ideas and beliefs.”
“I enjoy mentoring and empowering all of our next generation of leaders and nothing is going to stop me from doing so.”
“I would never tolerate a co-worker exhibiting bad behavior in any way.”
“It is easy for me to follow the rules of good behavior because that is what I learned from my parents growing up.”
“I feel proud coming to work every day at a company that values every one of its people and will do everything possible to help each of them reach their full potential.”
Calendar 2019 will start in a few weeks. We cannot control the markets, but we can control how we act and behave. We can also control how we think about all of our partners and co-workers and we can decide what we want Jefferies to stand for. We choose fairness, integrity, transparency, inclusion, openness, meritocracy, and equal opportunity for all. And while we know it goes without saying, know well that the two of us have no tolerance for anything else.
Thank you all for being our partners in our continual quest to build the best firm we can. We have enormous pride in standing with every one of you.
Rich and Brian