Sexism in City still ‘shocking’, report finds

MPs say efforts to tackle sex harassment and bullying against women at work is moving at a “snail’s pace”.
Sexism in City still 'shocking', report finds
Woman overlooking City of LondonGetty Images

Women working in London’s financial district are still routinely subjected to “shocking” levels of sexual harassment and bullying, a report by MPs has found.

Efforts to tackle sexism in the City is moving at a “snail’s pace” and requires action, the Treasury Committee said.

It called for an end to the “era of impunity” which it said was “holding back women” in their careers.

Employers and government had a role to play, it said.

The group of MPs said while there had been “incremental improvements” since 2018 – such as a small increase in the representation of women in senior roles and a slight reduction in the sector’s average gender pay gap – progress had still been far too slow.

Harriett Baldwin, chair of the committee, said the UK’s financial services sector was the “crown jewel” in the country’s economy “admired by the international community”.

But she said it would only be able to maintain its position if it was able to draw on the “widest possible pool of talent”.  “That’s why it’s so frustrating that efforts to tackle sexism in the city are moving at a snail’s pace,” she added.   

One of the committee’s key criticisms was around the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in sexual harassment cases.

During an inquiry, MPs heard how NDAs were misused to “cover up” abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination, “leaving victims silenced while perpetrators go unpunished”.

The committee called for legislation to ban the use of NDAs and stronger protections for whistleblowers in sexual harassment cases.

The MPs said firms’ internal whistleblowing procedures were “inadequate” and that HR teams prioritised the reputation of a business over the wellbeing of its employees.

The committee said evidence showed that 70% of whistleblowers within financial services were “victimised, dismissed or felt resignation was the only option open to them”.

To create a more level playing field for women, it called for a ban on prospective employers asking for salary history and a legal requirement for job adverts to include salary bands.

Other measures could include adjusting the size threshold for gender pay gap reporting – currently only firms with more than 250 staff are obliged to disclose their gender pay gap – and requiring businesses with wide gender pay gaps to explain the disparity and publish an action plan.

Ms Baldwin said firms had to take responsibility for “improving their culture”.

“There have been several high-profile cases which show the existential risk to firms who don’t tackle sexual misconduct,” she said. “We also know that more diverse organisations perform better, so inaction is not only immoral but bad for growth and business.” 

However, she added that while regulators and the government had a role to play they should avoid introducing “tick-box” exercises.  

Source: bbc.co.uk

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