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After harassment complaints, BlackRock vows to strengthen training

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Ross Kerber
·2 min read
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By Ross Kerber

BOSTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc will beefup its process to investigate workers' concerns and expandtraining after former employees shared accounts on social mediaof racial and sexual harassment.

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

Mehta wrote that "While we strive for a culture of respectand belonging, some of our people have experienced the firm in away that is not inclusive. Whether the behaviors that cause thisare intended or not, they are not acceptable and impact ourcolleagues and culture."

He wrote after former employees posted accounts they saidshowed the world's largest asset manager not living up to itshigh standards for diversity, part of a broader conversationabout race in corporate America.

In a Feb. 1 Medium post, former BlackRock analyst EssmaBengabsia described being sexually harassed and discriminatedagainst as an Arab-American Muslim woman, including beingtaunted for not wearing a Christmas holiday sweater. Littlehappened after she complained to the firm's human resourcesdepartment, she wrote.

In a separate post on Thursday she and Mugi Nguyai, anotherformer analyst who is from Kenya, wrote that they were "labeledas difficult, aggressive, or too outspoken to manage" when theytried to speak up. They petitioned for steps including anindependent audit of all internal harassment reports.

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

Like rivals BlackRock had stepped up its focus on diversitysince last summer's Black Lives Matter protests against racialinjustice. In July BlackRock said it aimed to promote morediverse team members and released data showing that as of 2019Blacks and Latinos held just seven of 103 top jobs.(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Daniel Wallis)