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Blokes, eh?

When City executive Selena* logged on for a Teams call with five senior male colleagues in spring 2021, she was gobsmacked.

She had spent weeks warning bosses that the London-based investment firm risked falling foul of European regulations. She had gathered data and presented supporting evidence, but was repeatedly brushed off. “Nobody wanted to listen,” she said.

So her jaw dropped that afternoon when a male colleague raised the issue and immediately gained support from the same boss who had ignored her. “I had to stop the meeting,” she recalls. “I said: ‘Why does it take a white, middle-aged man to deliver the exact same message that I’ve been delivering over the last few weeks?’”

When her comments were dismissed, and described as “over the top”, it was the final straw. “The realisation was: it doesn’t matter how hard I work, how talented, how committed I am. They will never ever recognise me,” she said.

Selena – now in her mid-40s – later resigned, bringing her decades-long career to a temporary halt, and leaving another City executive’s behaviour unchecked.

Her story was among those shared by more than 40 women from the financial services industry during a closed-door session of the House of Commons’ Treasury committee’s Sexism in the City inquiry, the report and recommendations of which are due to be released this week.

Prompted in part by the sexual harassment allegations against hedge fund boss Crispin Odey,

“They won’t listen to me” and “sexual harrassment” are different things, no?

15 thoughts on “Blokes, eh?”

  1. I have been there many times.

    You bring it up three times and if for some reason they still don’t want to hear, you “get on with the program” and never mention it again. Sometimes there are reasons why senior management don’t want to acknowledge a problem till the time is right. How could she not have worked this out for herself during her decades long career.

  2. How can you have a “decades long career” by your early 40s? Two decades at the most, which I suppose, strictly speaking, is “decades long” but that’s not how the phrase is commonly used.

  3. She had spent weeks warning bosses…

    What the grauniad never seems to get around to mentioning is how these sorts of warnings are delivered. Did she:

    a) cough politely in the office kitchen and say “excuse me sir, there might be a bit of a problem with…” and leave it at that while her boss was busy eating his Gregg’s pasty and chatting up the new secretary;

    or b) barge into his office, slap down an inch-thick file, and say: “Listen. If you don’t change this, this, and this, we’ve got a serious risk liability if the regulators ever find out” and then send a follow-up email copied to his boss so there is a paper trail.

    Or of course, it could just be sexism.

  4. All context is missing. Frinstance I turn off the sound when Match of the Day shows the highlights of a game with a female commentator. The shrieking is too painful for me.

    On t’other hand, one of the best “match analysts” I’ve heard in years was a woman (she turned out to be manager of Chelsea’s women team).

    Now, is our complainer a shrieker or a calm analyst?

  5. She also seems to lack the ability to enjoy saying “I told you so,” which often makes working for a crap employer worth it.

    The other thing to rememberis that the last thing senior management want to hear is the truth.

  6. But right about what? It’s a version of the blonde joke about popping dents out of a car by blowing up the exhaust pipe. If you’d ever seen inside a car door you’d know why. But yes, men can be quite as stupid as women.

  7. Did she have a paper trail?

    Many things get lost when you just talk to someone. A paper trail needs to be followed up on.

    The meeting is with a lot of people. On Teams it was probably being recorded. So suddenly it became more important to follow up on it.

  8. Ottokring

    I am envisaging you as Colonel Nathan Jessup from ‘a Few Good Men’ :

    ‘You can’t handle the truth’

    Very true what you say though. The Ostrich tendency is endemic across the country.

  9. As AndyF says, it’s not a sex thing, it’s happened to me. It’s an underling thing. Overlings ignore underlings, it’s part of the description of being an overling.

  10. Had this from a female colleague recently and I pointed out it’s a hierarchy thing in our organisation more than anything, C level only listen to Directors and Directors only listen to Managers and being in a professional role didn’t make any difference

  11. It’s not who raises it but who gets the credit for spotting it. Clearly she’s not had that much of a career to not be explicit about that point.

    Being early on an issue is less important that raising it at the right time.

  12. One alternative explanation for this kind of phenomenon is credibility. My old boss used to stress this all the time when taking things ‘upwards’. Coming up with something without having it is just not the same as someone saying even the exact words who has earned a lot of it with seniors and peers. Sorry. Yes and credibility is in the eye of the beholder, you can’t demand it coz Germain Greer, or anything else. Now if you’re primed to go for the misogynism narrative from earliest education, its not a surprise that explanation the default and then amplified. The reality of messy corporate politics world there’s a mix of people being credited with stuff they didn’t do/earn, but generally its the job of the leaders to work out over time who gets it right more often than not.

  13. One of the reasosn that I gave up on a “career” and decided to go self employed was that I became fed uip with exactly tghis sort of situation.

    Conversations with bosses along the lies of “this is a crazy idea” or “it is a waste of money” or “it’ll never work ” or explaining to a supposedly technical boss how somethig should work, usually ended with being ignored or derided – with the inevitable result that I was almost always right. This was not because I had any particular vision, insight or skill, but that the managers concerned were blind to or simply ignored the negatives often staring them in the face.

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