Monday, 7 September 2009

Sexism in the City

A new report today from the Equality and Human Rights Commission reveals extraordinary levels of inequality between men and women employed in London's financial centre, the City.

On one level, it is hardly news. For 20 years, the media has been awash with stories of discrimination, sexism, offences to women in the workplace, the glass ceiling - and of course, the inequity of pay. This is not a new story, but what is news is the extent of the discrimination - women on average paid just under £3000 for a bonus, their male equivalents paid just under £15,000. That is some pay gap.

In the Telegraph, Melanie McDonough opines that there are many reasons apart from sexism why men in the City earn more than women - for example, personal choice. The choice to move away from a fair remuneration and rights in the workplace to a third of the reward because of the choice to have children ( She also refers to the pure testosterone required of the highest "sensible" City risk-takers and how this was not consistent with - well, being feminine I suppose.

Now whilst I don't disagree in principle with everything she says, I think there is a more fundamental basic principle at play, which should focus on results. If women perform the same tasks and produce the same outputs of men, they should be paid the same amount of money. If they outperform men, they should be paid more. If they require flexible working, and they opt for a less challenging job, then there should be new, equal benchmarks for pay and output. Calculating both remuneration and targets on a pro rata basis is not brain surgery. It seems possible.

If we excuse the inequality by claiming that women opt for less demanding jobs, or don't take such good risks - though risk taking and financial markets hardly seems like a good match at the moment - or lack the correct hormones, we're missing a vital point. These should be choices that women make from a base of equality, not on the supposition that their lot is to have less.


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