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The city embraced women, but there’s still more to be done

Champagne, cocaine, prostitutes.

These are assumed staples of the City according to many lazy portrayals that have enjoyed the oxygen provided by the prolonged recession since 2009. Not a very inviting image for most women (or most people, I would argue).

I have taken issue with this pastiche on several occasions in this column. But what of women in the City? Is the image of a grand old boy’s club any more representative of the truth?

Looking beneath the surface

The problem with the image is that the City, and the ecosystem of which it is part, is not homogeneous.

Stockbrokers, analysts, traders, fund managers, hedge fund managers, corporate advisors; all very different roles with very different female representation.

Take stockbrokers for example. Tech or otherwise, the ratio of women to men on an anecdotal level at least, is very favourable. Of the account managers I speak to, at least half are female.

Is tech a man’s world? Find out in our print edition. .

There is a ghost of chummy bonding between male fund managers and brokers, but in the same way that boozy lunches and tips with a nod and a wink are a contemporary rarity, so is such a relationship as a barrier to success.

I dare say there is a good amount of champagne drunk at the right time and place, but respected stock brokers are intelligent, diligent and organised. Women, and their ability to perform, are widely accepted.

At the other end of the spectrum, it is much rarer to find female traders.

Never having been one, I can only comment looking in from the outside, but the trading floors seem still to be dominated by over-testosteroned twenty-somethings.

I dare say that collectively they are the not the optimal assets for the role, but there looks to have been enough self-selection to keep diversity low. This is probably where most of the bacchanalia emanates from.

And so it goes on.

Amongst analysts, gender differences are increasingly less noticeable even in tech. Goldman Sachs’s leading software and hardware analysts are both female. On the other hand amongst fund managers, white middle class males wearing the obligatory Hermes tie are heavily dominant (mine is an ostrich pattern, to remind me to speak up). Scarf sales are almost non-existent.

This perhaps speaks to the issue raised by the Lord Mayor Fiona Woolf, that female representation in the highest executive positions across the Square Mile is still disappointing. I cannot dispute that.

Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of the City of London
Fiona Woolf, Lord Mayor of the City of London

But otherwise the picture is ever more mixed.

One thing I can say for sure is that there is no reason it should not continue to change across the board. I would not dream of patronising women or men based on stereotypical characteristics of either.

I’ve tried very hard here not to match roles with genders.

That whole left brain, right brain thing is dead anyway, I hear. There is no job in the City that a woman should not think to do, and there is none that would not benefit from greater variety of genders and personality types.

After all, it was group thinking that got us in so much trouble in 2008, and banks that encourage a diversity of styles and genders are likely to be much more stable in the long term, as well as being much more productive environments in which to work. Which means more champagne all round.

As part of the launch of our new print edition, we’ll be publishing a series of guest columns and commentary celebrating women in tech. Got something to add? Get in touch with our editorial team.

Image Credit: flickr/James Thomson