Sexism is STILL rife in the city: Baroness Morrissey blasts the ‘Old Boys’ network
The financial services sector is still run by an “old boys’ network” that is allowing sexual harassment and misogyny to go unchecked, MPs heard yesterday.
As the Finance Committee launched its investigation into sexism in the City, fund management grandee Baroness Morrissey said sexism was “widespread” across the financial services industry.
She called for independent reviews into how companies handle sexual harassment complaints, adding that the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, could make better use of its powers to tackle the problem – including punishing companies if they fail to act.
The city is in turmoil after a series of sexual allegations against hedge fund manager Crispin Odey spanning three decades came to light this summer.
The FCA has since proposed rules to tackle non-financial misconduct in the workplace, including tighter suitability testing for individuals.
Fear factor: Baroness Morrissey told MPs that sexual harassment and misogyny remain unchecked
But MPs were told yesterday that the watchdog needs to set out the unacceptable behavior more clearly and ensure it has serious consequences for perpetrators.
The FCA needs to have “real teeth” and give firms clear guidance on what is unacceptable. Independent investigations may also be needed to ensure appropriate action is taken, Morrissey said.
She added that the “fear factor” prevents women from reporting harassment and assault to their managers. “I think for women it still feels like an old man’s network,” she said.
The 57-year-old is considered the city’s superwoman because she rose to the top of wealth management while raising nine children.
About 20 women working in the city had submitted testimonials to Morrissey’s initiative, The Diversity Project, describing their experiences with bullying, sexual assault and unequal pay.
She was impressed by the “nervousness” of the women. She added that there was widespread “distrust” and fear that human resources departments would side with a company or the alleged perpetrator.
Women had also said that reporting the situation had “made their working lives worse” as their complaints escalated to the point that some quit their jobs.
“So it’s very rational for people to think, ‘I’m not going to report anything,'” she said. Odey Asset Management was a “powerful case study” requiring boards and management teams to “undergo training on the risks to their business and the impact on individuals if verified complaints are not properly addressed,” according to the evidence provided by the Diversity Project the request.
Sanctions could also be imposed on committees that do not properly handle “serious complaints,” it said.
Fiona Mackenzie, chief executive of think tank The Other Half, said the level of sexual harassment was “so extreme and so out of control,” she said.
“Really decisive action” by regulators could include fines if the allegations are not seriously addressed, she added.
Commenting on the evidence presented as part of the investigation, the FCA said: “We will shortly clarify how firms should treat cases of non-financial misconduct when assessing suitability and propriety and what type of conduct would constitute a breach of our conduct rules.” ‘
The research also found that there is still a lack of equal representation in top positions at financial services companies.
Many women left the city after having children because work patterns were inflexible, MPs were told.
Five years after a Finance Committee report concluded that women remained underrepresented in top finance roles, Morrissey said there were “large pockets” in the industry where improvements had not been made.
Only 12 percent of the fund managers mentioned who have an account in their name are women – that has “hardly changed in the 36 years I’ve been in the city,” Morrissey added.
Mark Freed, boss of E2W and Men for Inclusion, which provides careers support to women in the industry, said women faced “being interrupted in meetings, having ideas stolen and being promoted based solely on past performance rather than potential become”.