Women have managed to come close to closing the gender pay gap and they’ve proved that a career in finance is almost out there for the taking. But research suggests that they are still at a disadvantage and have to face down bias against them and their abilities.

In part, the shift has come about because women are moving into more C-suites and out of administrative posts. According to Oliver Wyman, an international consulting firm, women made up 71 percent of support staff roles in financial services in 2016. They represented 48 percent of professionals, 40 percent of management roles, 28 percent of senior management roles and 21 percent of executives, the firm said. Those numbers are an improvement from 20 years ago and definitely over 50 years ago. But for all that, the data still shows that there’s a lack of women at the very top.

And it’s not just because women behave that much differently than men in professional or work settings. The Harvard Business Review studied 100 men and women at a large multinational company and found that the two groups received varied and unequal treatment based on how their behaviors were perceived.

Women also face inappropriate behavior at their workplace. Comparing 20 industries, the Center for American Progress charted finance and insurance as the ninth highest industry for filed sexual harassment complaints between 2005 and 2015. One of the most well-publicized gender discrimination cases involving a financial institution was in 1996 when 23 women sued Smith Barney (now Morgan Stanley Smith Barney) for sexual harassment and pay discrimination. The case was notoriously referred to as the “boom-boom room” suit. Out of the 6,696 sexual harassment charges filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2017 (not including state and local filings), 83.5 percent were from women.

And yet, in a 2015 research study, the EEOC said these numbers don’t reflect the bigger problem: 90 percent of individuals who said they had encountered some form of harassment didn’t file a complaint about it, the agency said. Partly that was because respondents didn’t associate certain actions with harassment. When the commission surveyed employees about unwanted sexual behaviors they considered “problematic or offensive,” it found that individuals didn’t categorize those behaviors as sexual harassment.

Some say it’s easier for gender discrimination to hide or that it’s become more subtle.

“The environment is difficult to navigate,” said Laura Mattia, the financial director of Raymond James’s personal financial planning program at the University of South Florida and founder of the Women’s Money Empowerment Network. “There’s biases that exist that influences how we approach women in finance,” she added.

She says women in financial services and other professional services are given competency challenges that their male peers aren’t. They’re put in a “double bind” where they can’t be simultaneously respected and liked. And they face family planning challenges and “gender wars.”

How Competent Is She?

Advisor Angela Moore, the founder of Modern Money Advisor in Miami Beach, Fla., says that when she was working for large brokerage firms at the dawn of her finance career, it was her older male clients who used to challenge her adeptness. She said they spoke to her like she was their secretary and looked at her as if she weren’t good enough.

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