Sexism in the City – government pledges action on 40% pay gap

Government has promised to clamp down on unfair pay and discrimination against women working in the finance sector.

Men are paid on average 40% more per hour than women in the financial services industry, despite women making up nearly half of the workforce, according to the Government Equalities Office. This is the highest gender pay gap for any industry in the UK, and compares with a national average of 22.6%, the research found.

There are fewer women in senior City roles than elsewhere in industry, where just 5% of managing directors are female, according to Ruth Sealy of the International Centre for Women Business Leaders at Cranfield School of Management.

As well as the pay gap, there were numerous cases of sex discrimination and harassment in the finance industry, including evidence of the use of lap-dancing clubs for corporate entertainment.

Bob Mecrate-Butcher, employment lawyer and partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, says we are living in times when everyone is keen to “kick a banker” and responds to the recent comments of Harriet Harman that sex discrimination is rife in the banking sector.

Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, told a trade union equality conference: “Huge bonuses for city bosses are not the only thing wrong with pay in the financial services industry.

“They are also top of the list for treating women employees unfairly. The gender pay gap in financial services is worse than in manufacturing, retail, or any other sector.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission will conduct an inquiry into these issues and make practical recommendations later this year. It will investigate the male dominated culture at the top of the finance industry, the gender pay gap and reports of sex discrimination in the industry, among other things.

Harman said: “In banking and finance companies women are paid, on average, 40% less than men.

“Half the people who are working in the financial service sector are women. But nearly all of the bosses are men. City boards are still mostly a no-go area for women.

“We need a real overhaul of the pay and prospects of women in the city. The Equality Commission will be using its legal powers to investigate this,” she said, speaking TUC conference in London about equality representatives.

Since the opening of the first UK lap dance club in 1995, more than 300 such establishments now operate throughout the country, according to women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society. And this trend, it says, has had a profound effect on the corporate world with a visit to a lap dance club now being “an increasingly normal way for companies to entertain clients”.

In March 2008, a TUC report report found the gender pay gap in all sectors more than trebles when women reach their 30s.

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