When we consider that British girls are missing school because they can’t afford sanitary products, women in the finance sector might not be at the coalface of our struggle. As the legendary Angela Davies said in London at the weekend, “It's not about glass ceilings. Stand with women for whom the floor is collapsing”. White women earning six figures *might* not be our most urgent cause.
But I’m of the belief that we have to support women trying to break those glass ceilings and take seats at the top table, too because, in turn, that will affect the decisions that will help the women for whom the floor is collapsing or has already collapsed. It’s certainly not a hard and fast rule that women at the top help women underneath them but in some cases, women in power will create policies or a working environment that, at the very least, understands women and girls’ needs.
Do any of these stats surprise you? That men are more comfortable firing women than they are men? That women are more easily demisable than men? Would these stats even be true if there were more women running the sector?
And, of course, discrimination is discrimination. Which is precisely what one survey has found in relation to women in the finance sector and the fact that they are twice as likely to lose their jobs. According to a new paper by business professors at American universities including Stanford, Chicago and Minnesota, there is a gender discipline gap, even though the study found that misconduct carried out by men actually cost companies up to 20 per cent more. The study could not find any reasons related to performance as to why women are disciplined or fired more regularly and therefore concluded that there is a “taste-based discrimination” – what we might also call “sexism". (Standing this side of 2008, you could be forgiven for thinking no men in the banking sector are punished for their actions…)
The study was American but feels relevant to British society today. As we watch Charlotte Hogg, the former deputy governor of the Bank of England resign for failing to disclose information affecting her role, we see the traditional male sector lose one of it’s most senior women. (Quick aside: yes, Men of the Internet, before you remind me, yet again, that the head of the IMF is a woman, that doesn’t actually mean finance doesn’t have a woman problem: not only did the Bank of England report last year that senior women in the sector are paid 40 per cent less than male counterparts, the suggestion that one single woman somehow balances out an ENTIRE history of gender inequality is nothing short of patronising and condescending).
And, lo and behold, even George MoneyBags Osborne recognised that there is a discrimination when it comes to how men and women react to punishment. Taking to Twitter, the former Chancellor said, “Charlotte Hogg is a real loss to public life. Would she have gone if she had been an older man whose sister worked at a bank? I wonder ….” (Another aside: City AM refers to the move as “gallant”, which is as unhelpful and is it nauseating. A man pointing out sexism should not be construed as the equivalent of rescuing a hapless wench; it should be what being a decent citizen looks like).
Does it surprise you that men are more comfortable firing women than they are men? That women are more easily dismissible than men? Would these stats even be true if there were more women running the sector? The study didn’t surprise me like the fact that charities that normally supply tampons to children in Africa are supplying them to girls in Leeds. And, of course, we all know that gender inequality is still rife, especially in male dominated fields. We know about the inequality in our society that is the most glamorous, most easily digestible – and the least uncomfortable to hear and acknowledge. (Like this video).
But if there were more women at the top of the finance sector, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken so long for the tampon tax to be scrapped; or perhaps they’d be a designated fund from the government or a donation from a bank to girls in Leeds who are so poor they can’t afford a sanitary towel. Girls in Leeds and women in London boardrooms aren't as disconnected as we might like to think.