Sexism in the City

This Tuesday the Fawcett Society will be launching their campaign Sexism in the City.

I’ve worked the majority of my working life for Financial Services firms (although not in wholesale or investment banking which I understand are the worst) and most of that has been in the square mile; I can confirm that there is quite a lot of sexism going on.

Sexist ‘events’ or comments or whatever you want to call them happen on a daily basis and I couldn’t tell you if it was getting worse or better. My most recent ‘favourite’ was a couple of weeks ago when I was leading a rather dry but rather complex business requirements workshop. I run a pretty tight ship on these things, especially when there are people on the other end of a phone line as it’s very easy to get bogged down and go off on tangents.

This one guy, oh, probably in his early thirties, already referred to by one of his co-workers as a bit of a loose cannon was constantly talking over other people and several times I had to stop him and ask him to wait a second so that others could finish what they were saying. After about the third time that I had to ask him he announced to the rest of the meeting that he was very glad he wasn’t married to me!

I have to say I was wrong footed by this and it took me a good few seconds to believe that he had just said what he has said in the middle of a work meeting. I am glad to say that the rest of our colleagues looked pretty embarrassed by what he had said and just wanted to move on. Which we did.

Can this man not imagine any role for a woman but to be a potential wife and so feels the need to announce it loudly when someone doesn’t fit the bill?

So, there you go, in one move he attempts to undermine me as a professional in a hope to reduce me to the role of a wife and lets face it not a very nice wife at that…a bossy wife, who doesn’t just let the man ramble on. Of course, a real man like him would never have anything to do with a harpy like me.

And if you think I’m over reacting to how this man reacted to being asked by me to wait until someone else had finished their sentence I wonder if he would have said the same thing to a man? No, of course he wouldn’t.

It was quite an unpleasant thing to say, it was quite spiteful and frankly aggressive but worst of all it was sexist.

Of course, I’m a tough old nut I don’t let something like that get me down, do I? I see it and him for what he is but I wonder what effect it would have had on me had I been younger or slightly more sensitive.

And it is just one more example about how women are objectified in the City. Being a liberal then if my male clients or co-workers want to go and have lap dancers titillate them of an evening that that’s their prerogative. But I have to say it’s a close run thing, as I’m not convinced that it doesn’t do any harm to women. I wonder if they find it so easy to purchase sexual titillation and see women only as something to buy how they manage to switch the next morning into treating the women they work with as equal professionals. Surely, the lines between female colleague and sexual object must blur?

I have no desire to work in an environment devoid of humour or humanity but I do want to work in an environment where my abilities, skills, experience and excellent delivery is undermined by some men’s view of women.

I don’t mind what people get up to in private as long as it is consensual but I am getting increasingly worried by the objectification of women in the media, on the internet, in drinking clubs and (most of all) on billboards around London; basically in public. I think it sends out the wrong message to both girls and boys and I think we are a poorer society for it. And I’m pretty sure that it impacts how seriously I am taken in my professional life, by some people, because I am a woman and that really, really winds me up.


Alix said...
27 Mar 2008, 18:43:00

God, what a total nobhead.

Is my sophisticated analysis of the incident.

Alix said...
27 Mar 2008, 18:48:00

Although I do wonder whether that kind of nobheaded comment is more likely to arise from having some god-awful Tory upbringing (even so - in his early 30s! Maybe he has a dreadful old colonel of a father whom he perpetually disappoints) than from lapdancing clubs. I think there may be a different motivation between sexual harrassment in the city, which pretty obviously is fed up by the lapdancing culture, and this kind of dismissive little-woman-in-the-home comment, which is more likely perhaps to come from The Home.

In fact, here's a good one: if ever a man makes an inappropriate comment of this nature, one could always instantly respond "Were you a disappointment to your father?" on the grounds that it is equally off-topic and offensive and just as rooted in private life.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
27 Mar 2008, 22:30:00

Well, I wouldn't like to suggest or second guess what this particular guy did of an evening; but you have to understand that my line of work, within financial services is mucking around with (I run nothing, just change everything) not so much middle or back office as down a few flights of stairs in the basement where you can hear the tube trains go by kind of office.

But there was definitley some dismissive woman-at-home stuff going on. It happens a lot in that office.

Still at least they've stopped using the 'c' word all over the place!

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