Talented women left behind while “mediocre” men occupy the best positions in finance

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Talented women are left behind as ‘mediocre’ men rise to the top by ‘imitating empathy’ and playing internal politics in financial jobs, study finds










Finance is still a male-dominated profession that allows “mediocre” men to rise to the top, research shows.

One study indicates that male middle managers hold women back because they are more adept at internal politics and tend to simulate empathy when leading women, acknowledging that the trait was now seen as valuable.

As a result, talented women are being left behind by the city’s deeply rooted male culture, says the London School of Economics (LSE) and the non-profit group Women In Banking and Finance that carried out the research.

Debbie Crosbie, Managing Director of TSB Bank

Counter the trend: Natwest boss Alison Rose, left, and TSB Bank CEO Debbie Crosbie (right) are shining examples of women who have reached the top

Women feel that they have less room for failure than men and that they must constantly give their best to progress.

Men had a lot more room to make mistakes or be average, the study found. Women also felt that bosses were much less likely to fight to keep them if offered another job.

And, in a blow to activists and the many equality campaigns, women still feel that maternity leave is holding back their careers. For black women, the research was of more concern: they believed they had to outperform white men and women.

This shows that the city still has a long way to go to improve opportunities for women, despite years of efforts to bring more women onto the FTSE 350 boards.

There are a few shining examples of those at the top, including Debbie Crosbie, Managing Director of TSB Bank, and Alison Rose, Patron Saint of Natwest.

The challenges women face in finance have also been highlighted by sexism and bullying scandals such as that at Lloyd’s Insurance Center in London in 2019.

One in ten workers said in a survey that they had witnessed sexual harassment at Lloyd’s in the past 12 months.

Grace Lordan, associate professor at LSE and founding director of The Inclusion Initiative, said women tended to be excluded or not given opportunities, while men tended to help people who were more like them.

She said the women interviewed thought he was “much more likely to be average men who ended up being gatekeepers to younger women who walked by.”

The Women on Boards UK campaign group revealed that less than half of the 260 small businesses on the London Stock Exchange have one-third of management positions held by women.

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