· 2 min read · News

Sex discrimination is still alive in the City when it comes to senior management roles


Recruiters in London's financial heartland are still admitting to sexist attitudes within their companies, which can lead to career challenges for their female employees.

According to a new report from Poolia, while many were positive about prospects for women in their organisations, significant minorities admitted to a different situation.

Almost one in five of the senior women recruiters interviewed believe their company discriminates against women when recruiting for senior management roles – despite their published diversity policies. Almost 30% do not think women have the same opportunities as men, and almost 50% believe women who take their full maternity leave will damage their career.

As a result, almost one in four of the female recruiters interviewed think career-oriented women should take a shorter maternity break.

In terms of flexible working, almost 40% of the 50 female City managers and directors surveyed see flexible working and work-life balance as a career-losing option, only taken up by junior people or working mothers with no choice (28%), as sending a signal to management that they are not serious about their careers (5%) and even in a few cases as a one-way ticket to redundancy when times get hard (2%).

Andrew Bath, Poolia’s general manager, banking and financial services, said: "It’s clear from the research that many City businesses are providing great opportunities for women but we were really struck by the fact that even when businesses have women at a senior level involved in recruitment, many still find it difficult to balance the needs of women. However, given the current skills shortages, companies need to work harder to take advantage of the knowledge and experience represented by women working in the City."

But the news comes as UKRC, the Government’s leading organisation advancing gender equality in the key sectors of science, engineering and technology (SET), has announced its intention to highlight the ways in which employers are frequently missing opportunities to recruit and retain women this month.

In its new report entitled, Women Mean Business: Why Gender Equality is Essential in Science, Engineering and Technology, the UKRC will reveal some shocking statistics on how females are frequently under-represented in SET occupations, how they are often not using their SET-related degrees or reaching the boardroom of top SET companies.

But the report, which will be unveiled at Westminster on Wednesday 14 July in front of MPs, invited delegates and women working in SET, will offer some practical solutions on how to not only reverse this imbalance but boost business performance.

The report coincides with the launch of the new Equality Act 2010, which will put further pressure on employers to recruit more women to comply with strengthened discrimination legislation coming into force in October.

Annette Williams, director of the UKRC, which provides vital information and advisory services to businesses, organisations and women working in SET, says the report will ultimately demonstrate how women represent economic value to the British workforce in the increasingly important fields of science, engineering and technology (SET).

She said: "In a time of cut backs and austerity, science, engineering and technology are key to the future well-being and prosperity of the UK and research increasingly indicates that the exclusion of women represents a loss of talent and can result in poorer decision making.

"In 2008 nearly 13 million women were working in the UK – of these only 5.3 per cent were in SET occupations.

"And in 2008 some 620,000 women in the UK were graduates in these subjects in but a staggering 70 per cent of them were not working in these occupations – an estimated £2 billion loss to the UK economy as a result.

"In the same year women held only nine per cent of board directorships in the leading science, engineering and technology FTSE 100 companies and exclusively male boards still existed in 35 percent of SET companies.

"This situation has got to change as gender equality is not just a matter of social justice it’s absolutely essential for forward looking organisations and good for business."