BlackRock vowed to strengthen training after staff spoke out about racial and sexual harassment

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BlackRock vowed to strengthen training after staff spoke out about racial and sexual harassment
BlackRock boss Larry Fink.CNBC/Getty Images
  • Earlier this month, a former BlackRock analyst described being sexually harassed and discriminated against.
  • After Essma Bengabsia shared her experience, other current and former employees came forward with similar stories.
  • BlackRock has now said it will be more transparent when handling complaints from staff, and improve training.

BlackRock said it was beefing up its processes for investigating workers' concerns, as well as expanding staff training, after former employees said they had faced racial and sexual harassment when they worked at the asset management giant.

Manish Mehta, BlackRock's global head of human resources, outlined the changes in a note sent firmwide on Thursday and shared by a company spokesperson on Friday.

"While we strive for a culture of respect and belonging, some of our people have experienced the firm in a way that is not inclusive," Mehta wrote.

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"Whether the behaviors that cause this are intended or not, they are not acceptable and impact our colleagues and culture."

In the future, the company will be more transparent when handling complaints and will provide employees more support on how to escalate workplace issues, he said.

Mehta's note came after former employees posted accounts they said showed the world's largest asset manager not living up to its high standards for diversity, part of a broader conversation about race in corporate America.

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In a blog post on February 1, former BlackRock analyst Essma Bengabsia described being sexually harassed and discriminated against as an Arab-American Muslim woman, including being taunted for not wearing a Christmas holiday sweater.

Little happened after she complained to the firm's human resources department, she wrote, even though she provided an extensive spreadsheet with dates, times, locations, and witnesses.

After publishing her post, current and former BlackRock employees reached out to her with their own, similar experiences, Bengabsia told Insider. She also created a petition demanding that the firm addresses harassment and discrimination allegations. It now has almost 9,000 signatures.

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In a separate post on Thursday, Bengabsia and Mugi Nguyai, another former analyst who is from Kenya, wrote that they were "labeled as difficult, aggressive, or too outspoken to manage" when they tried to speak up. They petitioned for steps including an independent audit of all internal harassment reports.

In a statement sent by a spokesman, BlackRock said it reviewed the claims by Bengabsia "but did not find she had been the subject of discrimination or harassment." The spokesman declined to comment on Nguyai's account.

Like its rivals, BlackRock had stepped up its focus on diversity since last summer's Black Lives Matter protests against racial injustice. In July, BlackRock said it aimed to promote more diversity among its top team, and released data showing that, as of 2019, just seven of its 103 top jobs were held by a Black or Latino employee.

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