UK regulator should combat rife sexism in City, lawmakers told

By Kirstin Ridley and Nell Mackenzie

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s markets regulator needs to properly tackle rife sexism and misogyny in London’s financial industry by clearly defining bad behaviour and helping alleviate the “fear factor”, lawmakers were told on Tuesday.

Helena Morrissey, a banker and equality campaigner, called for an independent review as she gave evidence to the parliamentary Treasury Committee, which is monitoring progress in tackling sexism in London’s financial centre over the last five years.

The first oral evidence session comes against the backdrop of sexual assault and misconduct allegations against hedge fund founder Crispin Odey and officials at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which pitched Odey’s hedge fund and the trade body into crisis. Odey has denied wrongdoing.

Morrissey said she had “clear evidence” that employers erred on the side of caution when sanctioning perpetrators, adding that she was aware of two people who still had an “unblemished record” on the regulatory financial services register after leaving firms following harassment allegations.

She pointed to some improvements, such as more female senior managers. But only 12% of named fund managers were women – a number unchanged over her 36-year financial career, she said.

Mark Freed, the chief executive of the Men for Inclusion initiative, said 50% of women asked in a survey ahead of the parliamentary session said they had been sexually harassed or experienced misogyny in the workplace.

But they were afraid to step forward. “Not one wanted to share their name or come here in person,” he said.

“I think the big problem remains culture,” said Morrissey, who chairs the Diversity Project, which champions an equitable and inclusive finance industry. Twenty people had testified to experiences such as aggressive sexual assault and bullying.

“The really striking thing from all 20 of the testimonies … is the fear factor,” she said. “There’s also testimony that each time where women have escalated what has happened to them, it has made their working lives worse.”

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; editing by Jonathan Oatis)