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Comment: ‘Boys’ club’ banter belongs in a bygone era

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Comment: ‘Boys’ club’ banter belongs in a bygone era

Defining ‘boys’ club’ culture is incredibly difficult. We all have different perceptions of what the culture entails, different experiences of it and different views on whether to partake in it.

However, due to first-hand experiences in previous jobs, I believe it exists and is a negative, outdated culture that needs to be addressed head on.

Typically, men describe the culture as being fun, light-hearted and healthily competitive. Women, on the other hand, may notice the silly, vulgar elements, such as crude innuendos and jokes at another person’s expense.

Many people, regardless of gender, have experienced or witnessed inappropriate behaviour in the office and felt uncomfortable.

Time for change

In previous employment, I have spent my day uncomfortably listening to banter, derogatory sexual jokes, innuendos and stories. It can be easy for men to forget their surroundings and be unaware of the effect their comments can have on the few women around them.

Throughout my career in the financial sector, I have seen plenty of this so-called lad culture in full force. I have been in the office listening to the degradation of women based on their looks rather than their professional ability.

I witnessed one woman become hesitant to have deep conversations with male colleagues, in case she was perceived in a negative light, or as wanting to ‘get ahead’ of men in the office.

Having witnessed these types of humiliating events first hand, I have come to the conclusion the ‘boys’ club’ phenomenon is thoroughly outdated. It is an issue that needs to be addressed and rectified.

Employees should have equal opportunities to be involved in all aspects of the office. All voices should be heard, irrespective of gender, age, nationality or any other characteristic.

The diverse workforce I work in makes me feel more comfortable. This is where my advice to advisers largely stems from. Hopefully, even if the lad culture is present in your office, there should be support available to you.

When you first highlight unease to another person, you may be greeted with the response, ‘In our office, everyone has equal opportunities.’

In some workplaces this might be true. But ‘many of us fall into the trap of acclimatising to inappropriate culture and seeing behaviour that could potentially offend as ‘the norm’.

In an office where ‘boys’ culture’ has become the accepted norm, change will not be brought about until the problem is brought to the attention of others.

If your company has an HR department, speak to them if you feel comfortable enough to do so. If not, speak to somebody you trust who can support or advise you.

Bottling things up is highly damaging. Change cannot be implemented without the issue being brought to the forefront. The only way to bring about change is through open dialogue and an appreciation of diversity.

But the onus is not just on those experiencing negative behaviour. It is on everyone to change the culture.

Speak out

Recruitment is another key area to focus on. Bringing in and training the next generation, regardless of gender, age or ethnicity, will help create a positive workplace culture. Moreover, it will encourage teams to be more inclusive and tolerant of others.

In the past decade, there have been many movements to create more opportunities for women in finance. But we still have a long way to go across the profession.

I urge advisers to play their part in continuing to enhance the movement towards equality and fair opportunity. Speak up when you see unfairness in the workplace, and challenge ‘boys’ club’ culture wherever and whenever you experience it. Do not let it remain ignored. Or worse, accepted.

Trudy Jenkins is a paraplanner at Niche IFA

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