Wooing the women

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Banks aren't best known as wonderful places for women to work. But they are at least trying to change. Question is - is it working?

First the bare facts: less than one in five senior people are women, and four out of five females in financial services have apparently been harassed, discriminated against or bullied at work.

If you're a woman who works in - or fancies working in - investment banking, it doesn't make great reading. But are banks really the equivalent of Jim Davidson (a chauvinistic British comedian) on a stag night, when it comes to their treatment of the fairer sex?

Not according to those in the know. Fleur Bothwick, head of diversity at Ernst & Young, and former head of diversity at Lehman Brothers, says they're making an effort (really). "Banks are definitely not as bad as they've been painted," she says. "However, it's a long journey and it takes time - culture change is a seven-year process on average and few banks have had that long."

Norma Jarboe, director of Opportunity Now, the women's campaigning organisation, is also all for banks, and says that it's not all their fault if there are problems.

"When problems arise, it's from diversity not having been mainstreamed down the line," says Jarboe. "A challenge for investment banks is that star dealmakers can become managers of a sizeable staff without having the people management experience they need to do that job properly."

What about those dodgy stats? The figure of 20% comes from JPMorgan, which recently appointed a new 'diversity recruiting executive' after revealing (in an internal memo) that only 22% of its managing directors and senior vice presidents are female. And the 80% figure is derived from the Department of Trade and Industry. It includes retail banks, which may well be a hotbed of discrimination that just hasn't been discovered yet.

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