My son’s home reader this week was “ The Boy Who Cried Wolf ”. With all the curiosity of a 7-year-old he asked me whether this book was around when I was at school; and remained wide-eyed as I recalled the story well enough (in spite of the MANY years that had passed).
The broker, Angus Aitken from Bell Potter, had penned a crude client memo deriding ANZ’s recent appointment of former investment banker Michelle Jablko as its new CFO.
Paul Edwards, ANZ’s Group General Manager Corporate Communications, took exception to the memo on the basis that it was s*xist, adding that Aitken wouldn’t have made the same claims against an equally qualified male.
Really? Aren’t stock brokers are in the business of forming and sharing opinions about the companies they follow? Just a glance at the style of Aitken’s memo suggests to me he’s not someone to pull his punches. And let’s face it, investment bankers aren’t typically a cohort that attract wholesale praise.
Clearly ANZ was unhappy with the memo. And a sell recommendation while a new CEO is still fresh in his seat is rather uncomfortable. But s*xist?
This issue leaves me with more questions than answers. Like:
Do women actually want the sort of action that Edwards has taken?
Would they not prefer to let their actions speak louder than some random broker’s words?
And how do men feel about the s*xism claim?
There’s no doubt gender discrimination and workplace harassment is real. I’ve spent a fair chunk of my career working to overcome it and I’ll always be the first to call it out when I see it. But let’s keep our focus laser sharp.
Women aren’t immune to public scrutiny of their performance and track record, and as more women ascend to the highest roles in our businesses and communities we should expect them to receive the same criticism as men do.
Certainly all of the high-achieving businesswomen I know would never expect to be quarantined from such. Sure, they’d likely ignore it, but they would equally expect it.
Jablko is clearly a well-credentialed and experienced candidate for the CFO role and there appears to be no shortage of referees stepping forward to support her appointment. She has the full support of her new boss, CEO Shane Elliott, who has taken a stand against overt s*xism and biases at the bank, like his banning meetings at strip clubs earlier this year, and he should continue to do so.
Aitken on the other hand has now commenced legal action against ANZ and is seeking a public apology and monetary compensation for damage to his reputation as a result of the s*xism tweet.
Edwards and the Bank are standing by their claim that – although Jablko’s gender was not mentioned or alluded to in the memo – it’s a classic case of “unconscious bias” .
No doubt the lawyers will have a field day on this one. I wonder what ANZ shareholders think of that.
S*xist stockbroker? Or the boy who cried wolf? You can make up your own mind.
Yours in anticipation,