Sunday, April 04, 2010

Independent Analysis

I'm featured (with a huge photo) on page fifteen of today's Independent On Sunday. Article about sexism in the financial services sector where a new report shows the pay gap is now 60% for salaries and 80% for bonuses. You can read it here.


miawal said...

Good for you Kate, I've heard you speak previously about your dreadful experiences in the City, sounds truly horrendous. More power to ya and keep on talking about it, people need to hear this stuff. And lovely photo by the way!

laphroaig said...

Nice advertising, not convinced about the journalism - which made a strange link between your experiences and a very specific parliamentary report about representation of women in banking (which is worryingly low).

One of the comments on the article from a (female) bond trader, criticised it for "cherry-picking outlandish examples and continuing to perpetuate the unhelpful stereotypes that discourage women from City careers". All week I have been mentoring a young (female) graduate in an investment bank. "It's not how I expected it to be, it's nothing like the horror stories." This is where we're at, women don't apply to work here because they think it's like "Mad Men".

Let's leave aside that all men who work in banks are dismissed as having the attitudes of teenage boys.

No-one wishes to deny your experiences, but it is possible that they're not representative and that by portraying them as such, you may also be part of the problem. You had a legal recourse (which people fought very hard for), and what sounds like a couldn't lose case (have you seen some of the high profile cases recently? they're weak and nothing compared to your experiences). Isn't encouraging other women who are victims of this kind of behaviour to use those legal tools a key part of this debate?

Still, good photo.

Cruella said...

The thing is that my experiences are not in any way unusual. But that's not to say that working in investment banking is like Man Men. I worked in the industry for nine years and most days - I wasn't directly discriminated against (although in fairness I can't say a week went by without someone making a sexist joke in front of me). Things like guys refusing to work for me and missing out on promotion happened on specific occassions. In fact I'd been there five years before either of those things happened. But they did happen. I'm not going to lie to the national press and say they didn't.

The official attitude of the banks themselves is very much "sexism doesn't happen here". And the message we need to send back is "yes it does and it needs addressing".

You suggest that my experiences are unusual and yet the report from the government shows that women aren't reaching the top levels of banking. So clearly this is a widespread problem - not a matter of a tiny minority. The government numbers also show a 60% pay gap and an 80% pay gap on bonuses.

There were several times during my career when I worked for a great team who genuinely valued female employees. There were other times when that wasn't the case. No career is built by staying in the same team (or indeed even country) for years and years. And by moving around the industry every few years I think it is inevitable that a woman in investment banking is going to encounter problems like those I describe.

I wouldn't want any woman to enter the industry thinking sexism won't be a problem. I don't think women are put off by hearing about sexism - I think we are more determined than ever to not let it stop us.

And as for taking legal action - it is complicated and time-consuming to do and widely accepted to be career-ending. Again I wouldn't want anyone to go into it unaware of that. I think what needs to happen is we have to accept that the current legal framework is not sufficient to give us equality. We need pay audits, promotion audits, recruitment audits and a much simpler means of registering complaints and having them investigated without disrupting your career.

laphroaig said...

Thanks for your reply Cruella, it certainly puts many of my comments in perspective. Thank you.

I think both of us have had different perspectives on this. Neither can claim to be entirely representative. I am a gay man working in a highly macho environment and have never, ever had a problem with prejudice.

I have heard horror stories and I do not doubt they are real. My nearest experience was being contacted by an employment agent who wanted to hire a trading assistant for a small brokerage who was "young and blonde and pretty". And I was once offered a night at a strip club by a telecoms provider (was seriously considering forcing him to spend an evening with me in a gay bar). My most obvious example within the firm was a boss's boss, who always asked the woman in the room (regardless of her role) to organise the next meeting. Very different from the experiences you describe, but I always found it troubling.

In terms of the pay discrepancy, it is a matter of concern and I'm sure a significant chunk will be down to sexism. However, it would be simplistic to say it was all because of sexism - it is depressing how few graduate applicants we get to the best-earning, front-office roles due to the lack of female candidates with numerate or technical degrees, so they end up in the less well-paying operations roles instead, to the point where we're now consulting on how legal it would be to introduce positive discrimination on gender. The structural aspect plays a role as well, home-working, flexi-time, part-time, etc. are all difficult to implement, both because of the restriction of market hours, the culture and the long working hours. Too many ambitious women drop-out of key roles in the 27-35 age group, and it is an industry which can be difficult to return to. The top earners will be a few hundred people - getting women into those roles will be key to restoring the numbers imbalance, but it's only a partial measure.

I would encourage women entering all industries to be aware sexism exists. It exists at banks, but it exists at lawyers, at consultancies, in insurance, in academia, in medicine, ... We lack any real evidence that attitudes within the capital markets are better or worse than other industries except our own experiences.

Still, I suspect we're the same sides of the debate (or close allies at least).