Home Money RUTH SUNDERLAND: Sexism still blights the City

RUTH SUNDERLAND: Sexism still blights the City

by Elijah
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It's hard for old attitudes to go away: having strong female voices on economic issues
  • Have strong female voices on economic matters
  • Women are underrepresented in the UK as academic economists
  • Women’s voices likely to be absent from economic debates



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The United Kingdom has had three female prime ministers, but there has yet to be a Governor of the Bank of England or Chancellor of the Exchequer.

That could change if Labor wins the next election and Rachel Reeves moves to No 11.

As for the Bank, for the first time there is a majority of women in the Monetary Policy Committee that sets interest rates.

Intellectual diversity is more important than gender in terms of avoiding groupthink on the committee, which in the past has been averse to questioning.

But having strong female voices in economics is important, as is encouraging people from less privileged backgrounds to embrace the subject.

It's hard for old attitudes to go away: having strong female voices on economic issues

It’s hard for old attitudes to go away: having strong female voices on economic issues

Surprisingly, a study by the University of Bristol in 2022 found that women are underrepresented in the UK as academic economists and that female voices are likely to be absent from economic debates.

Male economists, he said, are more confident in expressing an opinion than women, even in areas in which they are both experts.

Old attitudes die hard.

As our sister newspaper The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday, an inquiry into sexism in the city, due to be published on Friday, International Women’s Day, is likely to find little improvement in the six years since the last inquiry.

There has been progress in British companies. Leading insurance company Aviva is run by Amanda Blanc, our two largest telecommunications companies, BT and Vodafone, are run by women and the UK’s leading engineering companies, BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, have women on their chairs. The water industry is full of women at the top, including Severn Trent’s Liv Garfield and United Utilities’ Louise Beardmore.

Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey has its first female chief executive in Jennie Daly. They are very visible, but they are still a small minority.

In the rest of the business world, things are even less advanced.

Anne Boden, who set up Starling Bank, pointed out that female founders receive just two per cent of all venture capital funding in the UK.

She attributes this embarrassing statistic to the fact that “men in vests” in their 30s make the decisions.

Middle-aged women like her don’t fit the prevailing image of a techie: a young, Zuckerberg-esque man in jeans and a hoodie.

Recent changes to raise the bar for who qualifies as a high-net-worth individual for the purposes of marketing investments have made the situation even worse.

This has inadvertently prevented women from being ‘angel investors’, which in turn is likely to affect female entrepreneurs who rely on them for funding.

Before being ousted from NatWest, former boss Alison Rose did excellent work with businesswomen.

She led a government-backed review that found the economy could be boosted by up to £250bn if women started and expanded businesses at the same rate as men. Let us hope that his successor, Paul Thwaite, will support the clients.

In the City, off-putting aspects for women include the macho bonus culture, long working hours, testosterone-fueled deals and boozy dinners.

Companies led by female CEOs are disproportionately likely to be targeted by activist investors, who, at a subliminal level, may view a female boss as an easier target. Wrongly, as several have shown.

Men are more careful with their behavior and language after some high-profile scandals, including at the CBI and Odey Asset Management.

However, chauvinistic attitudes persist, sometimes unconsciously. Sexism in the 2020s may be more subtle, but stubborn.

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