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  • Eva Keogan
    Eva Keogan

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    Sexism in the City – it’s time for a better workplace

    We all want to love our jobs but what if the environment you are working in doesn't love you back? That's something many women are facing daily. Sexism is such an old fashioned concept and it’s really time for it to go, but it still exists.  How can firms stamp it out when it seems to be ubiquitous?

     

    You may have spotted the headlines recently about the Lean In survey which found 60% of male managers are ‘uncomfortable participating in a common work activity with a woman, such as mentoring, working alone, or socialising together’. 

     

    The choice of wording used is a bad start as it immediately puts the man in the role of the victim, with him being the one made to feel ‘uncomfortable’. And the study finds even worse thinking. 

     

    Apparently, senior male professionals are less likely to fraternise with junior females than they are with junior males. This is underpinned by these startling statistics: 

     

    • Men are 12x more likely to hesitate to have 1-on-1 meetings with women
    • Men are 9x more likely to hesitate to travel together for work with women
    • Men are 6x more likely to hesitate to have work dinners with women

     

    And to top it off, 36% of men say they’ve avoided mentoring or socialising with a woman because they were nervous about how it would look.

     

    If we look at these figures from the other side it becomes even more alarming – women are 12x less likely to get a meeting with a senior manager. Women are 9x less likely to get go on business trips. Women are 6x less like to be invited to work dinners.

     

    Yet this doesn't seem to be a case of fixing one problem and causing another, as 57% of women still report that they’ve experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. 

     

    So what exactly is going on here? It's surely enough to put many women off working in a corporate environment altogether. 


    Data and Facts


    While it’s always difficult to apply generic survey data to a particular industry – especially when it’s a sample size of 2000 and generated in the US – there’s no denying that these issues are global, and that sexism and sexual harassment are still rife in the City of London.

     

    In 2017, the FTfm Women in Asset Management Survey found 70% of women have been the subject of sexism. That’s pretty depressing.

     

    It’s really important for everyone to enjoy work – we work longer hours in the UK than our European counterparts and the City is no exception. But while on the one hand we have diversity drives, returnships and Gender Pay Gap reporting designed to give women and other groups support and reassurance through legislation and behaviour change campaigns, recent stories coming out of the City at large show types of misconduct such as sexism, exploitation and at the very least crass jokes, are by no means going away any time soon. 

     

    The Toxic City?


    News stories around sexism in the City aren't positive at the moment - here are just some which have made the news:

     

     

    With all of this on the table it’s quite easy to lose faith in change at all but we just can’t give up and go home if we want to see change. 


    Who is responsible?

     

    Organisations themselves are responsible for their own culture but they need more than a gentle nudge. Campaigns such as Women in Finance are pushing for the numbers of women in the industry to increase. 

     

    The Investment Association also has a role to play. It currently campaigns around Diversity & Inclusion as well and while it has written to FTSE 350 companies about diversity it has not been so vocal about sexism in the industry itself – but is this something it should champion or should it tackle broader issues?  The Diversity Project, the campaign set up to promote Diversity & Inclusion in the industry has a broad remit across the diversity spectrum and is a force for good overall but holds no power to enforce rules or regulation.

     

    All the above are working towards change but it is only when there is jeopardy, or high stakes, we will see any kind of radical reform or progress.

     

    Calling out to the FCA

     

    When it comes to any kind of enforcement, the FCA is the only organisation with real teeth and it has stated over the last few months sexual harassment falls within its remit, so perhaps we will start to see some tangible movement on the issue.

     

    Speaking at City and Financial's Women in Finance Summit 2019 this month, Nausicaa Delfas, executive director of international at the FCA, pointed to an increase in non-financial misconduct as a threat to the sector's diversity.

     

    "This type of serious misbehaviour is toxic to a working environment and can lead to bad outcomes for customers, staff, stakeholders and the firm. In our view, tolerance of this sort of misconduct would be a clear example of a driver of unhealthy culture. This area clearly requires management attention and a broader change in the firms’ mindset."

     

    Will this effect change?

     

    First and foremost, we’ve seen little change in the Gender Pay Gap reporting figures so should women expect much else to change? Yes of course women should. 
     
    According to Wealth Manager ‘The FCA has said firms need to demonstrate good practice in purpose, leadership, rewarding and managing people, and governance arrangements.'

     

    With SMCR coming into play in December 2019, company culture is being given increasing importance in the Investment Management sector, and the risk of high profile fines for senior management and directors from the regulator may encourage organisations to stamp out any form of misconduct – sexual or otherwise – more quickly than before.


    Let’s hope 2020 sees a step change in stamping out sexism and misconduct for once and for all and we can all enjoy our jobs, regardless of gender or identity.

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