Male employees texted pictures of their penises to female colleagues. A supervisor had sex with a female coworker, told his officemates about it, and pressured her to drink on the job. Another male supervisor invited employees to an after-work gathering at a strip club.
An explosive investigative report by the Wall Street Journal alleges that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — an agency established by Congress to sustain stability and public trust in the banking system — is rife with sexual harassment and misogyny. The agency is accused of enabling a toxic work environment by failing to punish perpetrators adequately, leading women to abandon their jobs as regulators. The institution has suffered a reputational black eye as members of Congress demand answers.
Much of this could have been avoided with Reflect AI, which preemptively identifies discriminatory or other problematic language in email communications.
The Journal interviewed more than 100 people, including 20 women who had quit, and found that female employees complained to superiors about inappropriate behavior, but the male managers were not “harshly disciplined.” The agency reportedly tolerated a culture of heavy drinking (including vomiting in elevators) as well as sexist comments about women’s appearance. Female employees also alleged they were not given equal opportunities for advancement.
The new FDIC allegations are a sign that the methods being used to combat sexual harassment in financial services are not working.
The claims are similar to the indignities alleged by female workers who have sued Arias Agencies, a Pennsylvania insurance firm that works with industry giants Globe Life Inc. and American Income Life. A stunning investigative report by Business Insider earlier this year, citing interviews and a federal lawsuit filed by a former female employee, revealed that women were forced to watch a boss masturbate, given date rape drugs, called “b*tches,” “sluts,” and “whores,” and sexually assaulted on the job, while male employees openly engaged in drugs, alcohol and violent behavior at work. Aggressors were reported but not punished.
Since the story's publication, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has shed most of the 6.35 million shares of Globe Life, the parent company of Arias Agencies, that it owned in March, and as of this week held 831,000 shares, an 87% drop. Two law firms are investigating whether to file shareholder lawsuits against Globe Life.
These, in turn, are much like the abuses faced by female employees at the financial powerhouse Smith Barney nearly three decades ago. There, men referred to female colleagues as “b*tches” and “c*nts,” and male brokers partied in a basement room known as the “Boom Boom Room.” Smith Barney paid $150 million to settle the lawsuit. Other class action discrimination lawsuits followed, including one brought by female brokers at Merrill Lynch, resulting in a $215 million settlement.
Reflect AI is an always-on monitor for email that alerts users in real-time to how their words might be interpreted by others. Here are some statements that male colleagues allegedly said to their female coworkers at the FDIC and Arias Agencies, according to the Journal and Insider. Below the statements are the responses you’d get if you typed them into email using Reflect AI by Alphy.
"Women need to use sex to get ahead at the FDIC."
"Obviously, if I walked into this office and you were naked, I'd f— you right now."
"You need to put your t*ts away, they're so distracting."
"The only way you get promoted to MGA is if you and Mal blow me at the same time."
Some Republican senators are now calling for FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg to resign. The FDIC has also hired the legal firm BakerHostetler to conduct a “top-to-bottom assessment” of the regulator’s workplace culture.
For businesses, the message is straightforward: Sexism is costly. Creating a workplace that swiftly and consistently protects against discriminatory speech and actions is essential not only morally but also financially. Companies must adopt initiatives that reduce risks, protect employees, and safeguard their financial interests.
Reflect AI plays a vital role as an always-on monitor and guide, alerting users in real-time to communication that is helpful, harmful, or potentially unlawful. Preemptively identifying problematic communication can nip it in the bud, rather than letting it fester into a toxic culture that not only harms individuals but also corrodes the integrity of an organization.
This is what makes Reflect AI indispensable as a new solution helping individuals and companies identify problematic communication before it escalates. Reflect AI works in email for desktop and alerts users in real-time to unlawful and harmful language while applauding them for helpful language.
Carolyne Zinko is the editorial director and AI editor at Alphy.
Reflect AI by Alphy integrates with email to detect risks prior to sending, and flags conversational missteps and successes in real time. If you are interested in getting Reflect AI for your company, contact us at email@example.com or download Reflect AI for Gmail or Reflect AI for Outlook.