Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation Leaders take Safety Respect Equity Standards to Wall Street
By Douglas Bitonti Stewart and David Warrington
As members of the Jewish Funders Network (JFN), we were excited to witness the launch of the Safety Respect Equity (SRE) coalition to ensure Jewish workplaces reflected the highest ethical and procedural standards to prevent sexual harassment and the abuse of inequitable power dynamics.
Before signing the commitment and attesting we would meet the standards, we went through the necessary and hard work of updating our internal policies and refreshing our staff training regarding accountability, reporting, and leadership. As we prepared to take the next step, sharing the commitment with our grant partners, we decided to take another path.
Before asking our grant partners (whom we call for-impact organizations as no one should be defined by what they are not) where they were in relation to the standards, we turned to our friends on Wall Street (our for-profit colleagues).
In alignment with our longstanding commitment to impact and value-based investing, we decided that anything we would ask our for-impact partners to do we should assuredly ask our investment partners to step up to do as well. Given the risks associated with behavior that prompted the #MeToo movement in the first place came from our sister sector, holding our investment managers to task makes good sense.
Together with our investment team at The Fisher Group, the family office that manages the Foundation and family assets, we worked with our investment consultant NEPC to devise a questionnaire for our asset managers addressing the core tenets of the SRE standards – having a formal policy, providing training, offering special training for managers, and establishing a framework for reporting and prevention against retaliation.
We reached out to all 75 of our investment managers, ultimately receiving responses to our questionnaire from all 75.
Note: bars represent number of managers responding affirmatively
Highlights from the survey include:
- 69 (92%) of the Foundation’s managers have a formal harassment and discrimination policy in place, 52 of which update that policy on an annual basis.
- Training is important for all employees as well as specialty training for managers – 55 of the 75 have proactive training around sexual harassment and discrimination and 37 of 75 have specialty training for managers.
- Training is provided, at least biannually, at 40 managers from the employee front, and 27 managers from the specialty manager training front.
- Approximately 90% of the managers have procedures for reporting incidences of harassment and/or discrimination, along with policies and procedures to prevent retaliation against those reporting incidents.
As we move forward, we plan to follow up specifically with the firms that do not currently have policies in place as a particularly urgent matter and then move toward the issues of training and accountability.
We hope our foundation colleagues who have already made the SRE commitment and those considering this critical work will see our efforts and share the questions with their for-profit investment partners to exert our collective influence to ensure safe, equitable, and respectful workplaces.
Douglas Bitonti Stewart is the executive director of the Detroit-based Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors for the Jewish Funders Network and Israel Center for Family Philanthropy.
David Warrington is investment officer for The Fisher Group.