Recently the media has been covering sexism in the City of London, with many women in the finance industry suffering harassment in the workplace and being held back by a glass ceiling that prevents them getting top jobs. What is true of the firms given the business votes that enable them to control the City of London council, is also true of the local authority that works on their behalf and against the interests of those who actually live in the UK’s last rotten borough. We have posted repeatedly about the fact that top jobs at the council are monopolised by the men only Guildhall Lodge 3116 of freemasons, who are allowed to meet for free on the local authority’s premises despite this being a class ceiling issue – since only two women have ever been Lord Mayor, while more than two thirds of the men holding this top post since the founding of Lodge 3116 in 1905 have belonged to it. For now let’s focus on media coverage of sexual harassment in the finance industry, knowing it won’t be long until journalists wise up to sexism and glass ceiling issues in City of London politics too:
Insurance companies dominate the City of London skyline, but what do they have in common? For starters, they share a culture of female-targeted sexual harassment – and Lloyd’s of London isn’t the only major firm playing host.
Sexual harassment and incidences of gender inequality are still common in the workplace – and women are the group that continues to be the major victims. It happens across the country (and beyond) and in every kind of business, from small startups to massive corporations.
London’s insurance sector has been named one of the most “archaic” in terms of gender equality.
These incidences are amplified when you take professional women and put them into some of the most ‘traditionally male’ workspaces in the world, such as the urban financial centres of New York (Wall Street) and London, (the City).
In these locations, it’s the men who are the ‘traditional’ occupants and have worked as bank clerks, brokers and traders – for hundreds of years. Women, on the other hand, are relative newcomers.
Despite London being known as the financial centre of the world… it’s suffering from a gender harassment problem in its insurance sector that stands out from the rest. Bloomberg Businessweek even called London “the most archaic corner left in global finance” and named Lloyd’s of London as one of the biggest perpetrators of this toxic culture.
Lloyd’s of London has been hit by damning harassment claims… The famous firm undertook a recent survey into its workplace culture, and the results are not good. The findings revealed that as many as one in twelve employees has born witness to incidences of female focussed sexual harassment over the past year. Even worse, it revealed that one in five don’t believe there are ‘equal opportunities’ for staff at the firm, with female respondents citing this most strongly.
The idea that the relative novelty of women in London’s insurance sector could be the reason for incidences of sexism and harassment is no vague concept, it’s grounded in history, where female brokers were not allowed to work on the Lloyd’s dealing floor until 1973.
The interviewees didn’t beat around the bush with their comments about the culture at Lloyd’s, with one calling it a “meat market”, and another saying the environment of harassment against women is “constant.”
Furthermore, when you go back to the founding story of Lloyd’s of London, you can see how little has changed in terms of culture and representation.
The firm was started back in the seventeenth century to help (male) merchants secure insurance for their ships, and hundreds of years later, this survey confirms that it has stayed true to the founding mission of its male-dominated culture.
The survey findings also revealed a culture of silence on the issue of sexual harassment at work, with nearly 42% saying they wouldn’t feel comfortable raising concerns, and two in five respondents saying they wouldn’t be listened to if they did report an incident – including a staggering 38% who wouldn’t know who to approach with the issue.
The recent feature undertaken by Bloomberg Businessweek brought forth a series of testimonies from 18 female executives at Lloyd’s.
They didn’t beat around the bush with their comments about the culture there, with one interviewee calling it a “meat market”, and another saying the environment of harassment against women is “constant.”
Another said that male underwriters are constantly engaged in a competition as to who can ‘hire the most attractive female assistants,’ while another woman said female employees continue to be called derogatory names such as “totty.”
There are also claims that sexual harassment towards female employees has occurred under the influence of alcohol – and largely perpetrated by more senior male staff…
Real Business spoke to a female insurance broker, at another global firm in the City to find out how gender politics play out beyond the hallowed halls of Lloyd’s.
The woman who wished to remain anonymous, is a millennial who’s worked at her firm for three years, said many female professionals at the firm, whether executive assistants or brokers, were largely selected based on their looks – and that this was widely known across the business.
She went on to say that the usually strict dress code at the company (which is standard in insurance firms and is usually conservative in style), was relaxed for women in client-facing roles who were encouraged to dress in a more provocative manner…
The HR lessons we can learn from London’s ‘sexist’ insurance sector by Annie May Noonan, 26 September 2019, Real Business. Read the full piece here: https://realbusiness.co.uk/sexism-in-londons-insurance-sector/