Tocqueville Analyst Claims Gender Bias Cost Her a Promotion

(Bloomberg) -- A Tocqueville Asset Management LP investment analyst sued the firm claiming she was denied a promotion because of her gender and threatened with termination when she complained.

Coille Van Alphen said she was told by a senior manager that she had "hit the glass ceiling," that the private wealth management firm was a "boys’ club," and that she should "move back to Canada" where raising children would be easier after she tried to win a job as a portfolio manager. Van Alphen, a single mother, alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court that she was then threatened and moved to another team.

The firm, which manages about $12 billion, takes its name from Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th Century French diplomat, a student of American society. Van Alphen noted in her complaint that de Tocqueville himself had been hostile to gender equality, stating that by "attempting to make one sex equal to the other, both are degraded."

"The company, it seems, picked a nineteenth-century namesake that truly mirrors its own outdated values," she said.

Photo Evidence

The complaint includes a photo lineup of the firm’s four-person executive team, 38 portfolio managers and 19 research analysts. Of the group, two are women: Van Alphen and one portfolio manager. Almost all of the rest are white men.

Tocqueville denied the discrimination claims.

"Tocqueville is an equal opportunity employer," an outside spokesman for the firm, Tucker Hewes, said in a statement. “This lawsuit and the damages it seeks will be found to be without foundation.”

Van Alphen said in 2011 she joined the company’s precious metals investment team, where she researched and selected "numerous investments that have since generated substantial revenues." In 2016, however, her career stalled when she made a pitch to start her own fund, after getting a soft commitment of $5 million in investments, she claimed. A male employee with similar experience was promoted instead, she said.

Although she didn’t allege she was sexually harassed, Van Alphen said her case is "another example of a woman showing courage to stand up for herself in the face of sexist men who think they can treat women like second-class citizens."

During the past year, almost every industry has been forced to reckon with sexual harassment and gender discrimination, following revelations of sexual misconduct by producer Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men.

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