Most corporations don’t seem worried about a major #MeToo backlash

Key Points
  • CFOs at leading North American corporations tell CNBC they aren't concerned about a #MeToo reckoning within their organizations.
  • Many corporations have made no changes in response to the explosion of sexual assault allegations, because they say they already have the proper policies in place.
  • One reason they are confident in their handling of gender and diversity: Corporations already recognize it as a key component in financial success.
Activists participate in the Take Back The Workplace March and #MeToo Survivors March & Rally on November 12, 2017 in Hollywood, California.
Sarah Morris | Getty Images Entertainment

A tidal wave of high-profile accusations, suspensions and firings for sexual misconduct might suggest there's a major #Metoo reckoning coming for large corporations, but they don't seem overly concerned.

Many of the largest corporations in North America are confident their firms are already doing the right thing, according to a survey of the CNBC North American CFO Council.

Half of CFOs surveyed said their company had taken no action in the last three months in response to the surge in sexual harassment allegations against men in film and television, the news media and politics. Former congressman Harold Ford was recently fired by Morgan Stanley after sexual harassment allegations were made — Ford said he will sue and the claims are false — but the news led some to speculate that a larger reckoning was coming to key corporate sectors, such as the finance industry. The venture capital industry has seen a few high-profile departures after sexual harassment allegations, and sexual harassment issues have plagued the tech industry.

Among those CFOs that did say their companies have taken action, 41.7 percent say their companies have issued company-wide reminders of policies and procedures. Only 12.5 percent said they'd mandated new or additional training. A single CFO told CNBC they've "initiated extensive conversations with mid-management personnel on the topic and our policies."

CFOs expressed confidence in their overall workplace culture when it comes to diversity and gender equality. More than half (54.2 percent) say it's "an example for others to follow," and more than a third (37.5 percent) think it's "better than most." None expressed a concern that their corporate culture is behind other companies.

The response from CFOs seem to come from an existing belief that there are financial benefits from a workplace culture that welcomes women, and repercussions for firms that don't already understand this.

When asked what would be the most significant financial impact of inadequate workplace diversity and gender equality, almost half (45.8 percent) say "weakened ability to attract and retain top talent."

One-third (33 percent) point to problems that occur when a lack of diversity leads to a lack of creative thinking, with most saying that lack of understanding and opportunity can be a sign of "group think" or "institutional blindness."

"Inability to understand our customer … and therefore miss out on sales opportunities" was how one CFO put it. Another said lack of diversity could cause a "failure to understand our diverse consumer base, more than 50 percent of whom are women."