After harassment complaints, BlackRock vows to strengthen training

3 minute read

The BlackRock logo is seen at the BlackRock Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

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BOSTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) will beef up its process to investigate workers' concerns and expand training after former employees shared accounts on social media of racial and sexual harassment.

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

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

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He wrote 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.

In a Feb. 1 Medium post, 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.

In a separate post on Thursday she 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 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 diverse team members and released data showing that as of 2019 Blacks and Latinos held just seven of 103 top jobs.

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Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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