Some time ago, The Telegraph Woman asked me to write a feature on the truth about being a woman in banking. They wanted juicy details and scandalous examples of how women are maltreated and victimized in a male-dominated environment.
I was rather reluctant to write such a piece, because for the most part, it is not true. No one forced me or any other girl to join the banking industry. We all had our own reasons (discussed in my book: ‘Confessions of a female banker’) and we tried to play our cards the best we could. If a bit of charm and a tight skirt would open a few career doors, the occasional inappropriate comment or gesture would not get in our way.
However, in my career I did not witness the kind of debauchery or hedonistic parties portrayed in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. By the time I joined banking in the mid-2000s, these had largely been replaced by cost-cutting and business optimization policies.
In recent years, compliance and internal regulations have been tightened so much that it is almost appropriate to talk about men being the victims on the trading floor. In the race to prove their women’s rights credentials and project a “non-chauvinist” face, some firms would rather give a promotion to a woman even if there are men who deserve it a lot more and might need it a lot more (as many of them are the sole breadwinners for their families), and yet they stay in the same role for years, if not decades.
Do not get me wrong – I am not taking sides with either men or women here. I have witnessed brilliant people of both genders losing out to lesser candidates, as a result of preferential treatment based on professionally irrelevant personal attributes. I truly believe that we all need to strive to be the most compelling versions of ourselves and let the best person forward, regardless of his or her gender, race, nationality or beliefs.
As long as we as a society (and the media as its mirror) want juicy details as opposed to examples of courage, integrity and generosity, we are not really any better than that unsophisticated trader who used to say he needed a cold shower every time I passed by his desk.
New codes of conduct and a fear of disciplinary action might have shut him up, but did he really change his attitude?