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The UK parliamentary watchdog that scrutinises top financial bodies has launched an inquiry into sexism in the City of London, five years after it said multiple barriers were holding back gender diversity in senior roles.
The cross-party House of Commons Treasury select committee said on Friday that its probe would focus on the obstacles faced by women in the financial services sector in an effort to assess progress in eradicating gender pay gaps and combating sexual harassment and misogyny.
Harriett Baldwin, Tory chair of the committee, said she and her colleagues would be “investigating if enough work has been done to build more supportive workplace cultures, how harassment and misogyny can be addressed, and the role the government and regulator should play in role modelling behaviours”.
A Treasury select committee report published in 2018 identified a number of barriers to women’s progression in financial services. It found evidence of “unconscious bias” in companies, that their “bonus culture” deterred and disadvantaged women and called for more objective performance assessment criteria.
The committee also concluded that it was “unnecessary for some roles in the financial services sector to still be carried out with long working hours based in the office”.
Since 2017, large UK employers have been legally obliged to report their gender pay gap, or the difference in average earnings between men and women.
Working patterns in the financial services sector have also changed in the past three years as the pandemic introduced a shift to remote work. The rise in hybrid working has added flexibility for some staff but it has also fuelled concern over employee burnout.
The launch of the inquiry comes weeks after City financier Crispin Odey departed his own hedge fund after the Financial Times reported that 13 women had alleged sexual assault or harassment by him.
The Financial Conduct Authority, the top regulator in the sector, has said it is investigating both Odey and Odey Asset Management. FCA boss Nikhil Rathi is expected to face further questions when he appears before the TSC next week.
Amanda Blanc, chief executive of FTSE 100 insurer Aviva, said last year that she had experienced worsening sexism as she took more senior roles in the industry.
Blanc’s comments came after Aviva shareholders told her at the company’s annual meeting that she was “not the man for the job” and should be “wearing trousers”.
The Treasury committee has launched a call for written evidence, which will remain open until September 1, and said it would particularly welcome contributions from women who have worked in financial services.