Sexism in the City: Report by MPs says sexual harassment 'shockingly' present in finance world

The MPs released on a report on Friday titled 'Sexism in the City'. Credit: PA

Sexual harassment remains "shockingly" prevalent in the City, according to a committee of MPs.

Members of the Treasury select committee say they were "appalled" by the stories they heard from women working in the City.

The MPs warned that efforts to tackle sexism in the City were moving at a "snail's pace" and said companies were handling allegations of such behaviour poorly.

The politicians called for fresh legislation to ban the use of non-disclosure agreements - that gag workers who have faced mistreatment - after discovering how widespread they were.

In their report entitled Sexism in the City, the MPs describe NDA's being used to cover up abuse, sexual harassment and discrimination.

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Evidence also suggested that 70 per cent of whistleblowers were victimised, sacked or felt forced to resign.

The report concludes that while sexual harassment against women is a societal problem, it is worse in financial services.

The MPs demand a "zero-tolerance approach", and warn that the overall culture prevalent in the City is holding women back.

Harriett Baldwin, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, said: “The UK’s financial services sector is the crown jewel of this country’s economy – admired by the international community and always takes pride in being ahead of the curve. 

“This well-paid sector will only be able to maintain its competitive advantage if it is 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."

Harriett Baldwin is MP for West Worcestershire Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

She said companies must take responsibility for changing a culture - which the report said was holding women back.

Inaction was both "immoral" and "bad for growth and business", she argued.  

The MPs also found evidence of perpetrators well known within their organisations for serial offending being effectively given immunity.

The study did find some positive signs of improvement in the senior representation of women in some firms but warned that progress was still "too slow and patchy".

They also highlighted the problem of women struggling to succeed after having children.

They praised the introduction of parental leave - including in some major firms - but argued the offer was still not widespread across the industry.

"We recommend that the Government and regulators encourage all firms to consider equalising their offer of parental leave for men and women, and to actively encourage more men to take it up."

Hybrid working as a result of Covid had provided opportunities for women with caring responsibilities, they said, warning that a push back to “presenteeist” cultures could damage that progress.

They also argued that as more people return to the office, companies should be careful to treat those who work from home more often - equally.

"We recommend that the Government and regulators encourage firms to advertise as many roles as possible to be available on flexible and part-time bases, as a way to attract and retain as wide a talent pool as possible, especially women."

They also called for even more focus on the impact of menopause, and policies to support women affected to prevent them being prematurely lost from the industry

And while they acknowledged the City is well-paid, they said the gender gap was bigger than in any other sector and being reduced at a "glacial pace" which could take 70 years to close the gap.

They suggested that a government policy to scrap the bankers' bonus cap - now backed by Labour - could increase the differential between women and men at in financial services.

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