Hangover from the 'Carry On' days


By TAN KAH PENG

AS IF the earnings gap is not bad enough, women working in the Square Mile have to put up with scenes straight from the Carry On sexist comedy series. 

Linda Davies should know. When she started work as the first woman executive in corporate finance at a major US bank, many of her male colleagues did not like it. One even refused to speak to her for six months. 

Recalling her experience in a recent newspaper article, Davies tells of a fellow who could not keep his hands off while discussing the finer points of a US$100mil deal – he kept pinching her bottom. 

Putting up with “dirty” colleagues is one thing, but encountering an amorous client was quite daunting, as she was chased around, of all places, in the boardroom for a “few private words” during negotiations. 

“The client tried this trick a few times. Everyone on the team (negotiating on a big deal) must have guessed what he was up to, but nobody said anything,” Davies said in London’s Evening Standard

“But I knew the ethos of the City well enough (she worked as an investment banker for seven years in the 1990s). Do your job. Take the rough with the smooth.” 

And the reaction of the senior banker on the deal? “My dear, did nobody ever tell you, the customer is always right?” 

Perhaps her experiences were of those days. Hardly, judging by the number of sexual discrimination cases and the eight-figure awards some City banks have to pay up quietly to settle harassment suits. 

Such horror stories apart, it looks like the race to narrow the gender gap is proving to be an uphill task, right from the bottom (a cleaner) to the top (company finance managers) of the scale. 

The difference seems to widen as women climb the corporate ladder: a solicitor gets 15.6% less in hourly earnings than their male colleagues, doctors close to 20%, bank managers 25% and company finance managers a hefty 40%. 

Traditions, they say, die hard and, according to Davies, where “there’s money, there’s muck – and this is the core of sexism in the City.” 

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