Nearly 500 workers experienced sexual harassment at Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest insurance market, over the past 12 months.
It is a statistic that CEO John Neal admits is “truly terrible”.
An independent survey of staff – commissioned in the wake of damning news reports earlier this year – painted the picture of an alcohol-fuelled working environment where harassment was rife, complaints were not taken seriously, and it was common to turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour.
The survey found that 8% of the 6,000 respondents had either witnessed or suffered sexual harassment, forming part of a corporate culture that was described as being “much less positive” for women than it was for men in every measurable way.
In response to the findings, Mr Neal said he was both upset and disappointed.
Commissioned in the wake of a Bloomberg Businessweek report earlier this year that told of 18 women’s constant harassment – including groping and sexual assault – the survey was conducted by the Banking Standards Board (BSB) and was said to be the largest ever in the insurance sector.
Mr Neal described the survey as “validating in a pretty ugly way the issues that were raised six months ago”.
While 24% of respondents said they had observed excessive consumption of alcohol during the past 12 months, 22% said they had seen people in their organisation wilfully ignore inappropriate behaviour.
And of the nearly 500 individuals who had suffered or observed sexual harassment in the past year, only 45% said they would feel comfortable raising a concern.
In an attempt to eradicate this culture, Lloyd’s said it would appoint an independent advisory group to be chaired by Fiona Luck, a Lloyd’s board member and non-executive director, and publish a gender balance plan, setting “clear, measurable and achievable metrics”.
The City firm told Sky News that it had not yet drawn up these metrics, but hoped to do so soon.
One remedy that Lloyd’s said it hoped to promote was its confidential hotline – set up after accusations of sexual harassment first arose in April of this year – allowing women to report misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.
Individuals found to have broken rules of conduct could potentially be banned from the insurance exchange for life, Lloyd’s said.
Specialist employment law firm Littler applauded the decision by Lloyd’s to conduct the survey, saying the insurance market should be commended for its transparency.
“Other parts of the financial services industry may well follow the lead and undertake similar research to benchmark behaviour,” Littler said in a statement.
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