Gender Equality

British politicians to probe sexism and misogyny in the City of London

The decision to launch an enquiry comes after a raft of allegations by female staff at high-profile organisations

  • July 14, 2023
A number of recent scandals have hit the City of London

Politicians in Britain are to undertake an inquiry into sexism and misogyny in the City of London in the wake of recent sexual assault allegations by female staff members at influential businesses.

The House of Commons treasury committee, which scrutinises the work of the Treasury and public financial bodies, said it wants to find out more about the barriers women in financial services face.

The new inquiry will address whether the British government and watchdogs need to play a bigger part in combatting sexual harassment and misogyny in the sector.

This could be by being better gender diversity role models, or making policies that support women’s progress, and encouraging careers in the industry to be marketed to a more diverse base of individuals, the committee said. It is calling for people to submit evidence, particularly women working in finance, online before September.

The move comes after a raft of allegations against City financier Crispin Odey resulted in him leaving Odey Asset Management, the hedge fund he set up.

The Financial Times last month uncovered allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Odey by 13 women who either worked with or had professional dealings with the fund manager. The British Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is being quizzed about how it handled the claims. Odey has denied all the allegations.

Elsewhere, the influential business lobbying group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has battled for survival after more than a dozen women came forward with allegations that they were sexually harassed while working for the company.

Two women said they were raped by colleagues. It led to questions about the culture at the organisation and how it dealt with complaints from staff.

The sexism inquiry will also examine how much progress has been made in removing gender pay gaps. Among full-time employees, the median hourly pay was 8.3 per cent less for women than men as of April last year, according to the latest official data from the British Office for National Statistics.

Some financial services companies have reported much wider gender pay gaps, however. In its latest annual report, the major bank HSBC UK said women were earning just over half the hourly pay that male staff earn on average. At Lloyds Bank, its female staff were earning about a third less than men.

“As a committee, we’d like to know whether women feel more supported in the financial services industry than at the time of the previous committee’s inquiry five years ago,” Harriett Baldwin, an MP and chairwoman of the treasury committee, said.

“We’ll be investigating if enough work has been done to build more supportive workplace cultures, how harassment and misogyny can be addressed, and the role the government and regulator should play in role modelling behaviours.

“Has the culture in this highly paid sector shifted at all in the last five years? This is a subject of marked importance to our committee and we look forward to beginning work on this important topic.”

The previous 2018 inquiry called for firms to abolish “alpha male” cultures that discourage women’s progression, remove the stigma of flexible working, and pushed them to publish strategies to close gender pay gaps.