I recently attended an event and I heard three male financial service professional speakers crack jokes at the expense of a woman. As a woman sitting in the audience, I will admit it – the joking made me slightly uncomfortable. My immediate reaction was to look around the room and to see the response (most of the guys laughing, as expected). For the people who sat at my table, however, several men looked at me with an “ouch” expression. Later on, I actually felt sad that the best we could come up with in 2017 for material to chat about in front of a group of 250 professionals was at the expense of my fellow XX chromosome-carrying friends.
Is that the best we’ve got?
The jokes were not made maliciously so before anyone sends me a nastygram telling me to “lighten up”…hear me out. I know they were made lightheartedly. What I don’t understand is why telling a joke at the expense of a woman when in 2017 we are desperate to recruit more advisors (gender neutral to that equation) would financial service professionals “go” there?
…because we do what we’ve always done.
You see, that’s really the problem with this. Do you think in twenty-five years of financial services I haven’t had a male financial services professional ask me to fetch a coffee, pick up a lunch, or assume I’m the receptionist/secretary/admin? Pffft…I’m way over that.
I’m much more fixated and concerned about our community as a whole when we do what we’ve always done. This means no change. No change means no moving forward. No moving forward means we are behind. And we know how far behind FinServ already is, right?
What should we say instead?
Joking is a natural part of storytelling (storyselling really) and I’m not saying you must abstain from all jokes. Not at all. But what about saying things which are industry specific vs. gender specific? Some examples of great folks…
- “I made my money the old-fashioned way. I was very nice to a wealthy relative right before they died.” – Malcolm Forbes
- “I can’t afford to die; I’d lose a fortune.” – George Burns
- “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable.” – Clare Boothe Luce
- “I have enough money to last me the rest of my life unless I buy something.” – Jackie Mason
In each of these, the punchline is funny because it applies across the board and doesn’t come at the expense of one target audience group, etc.
Be a person of action – Remember, joking is part of who we are but maybe we need to be more open to how the delivery will come off to different people in the audience? If you are a professional speaker, ask someone to record you speaking so you can play it back. Run a joke or razz by a spouse, significant other, etc. who can provide honest and sensitive feedback – and be open to hearing it! Think before you speak. And lastly, if you even pause for a moment that this might not go over well, abandon the comment or joke. It’s just not worth it!