Members of Parliament questioned a panel that included Helena Morrissey, speaking in her capacity as chair of the Diversity Project — a money management initiative launched in 2016 to accelerate progress toward an inclusive culture. Morrissey is the former CEO of Newton Investment Management and former chair of the Investment Association, which represents money managers.
Regarding the treatment of sexual harassment in the industry — which the Financial Conduct Authority is taking a tougher stance on — Morrissey said more work is needed, including the potential for independent investigations into allegations.
Morrissey said she knows of people who have been "let go twice from two firms for sexual harassment, and if you look up their name on the FCA register … of certified people, it's (an) absolutely unblemished record. So, there's nothing on fitness and propriety, on regulatory reference, on certification regime at present. So, it needs to be baked in," she said. Morrissey said she also wanted to put on the record that "one of the most disappointing things I have encountered … is when women stand by" as sexual harassment happens around them. She's been told by women of her generation that they "toughed it out," but Morrissey said "it's not good enough. I got involved in all this because I wanted to make things better for the next generation of women behind me, and I think we do need to create a different environment where women feel it is their responsibility as well to look after, to look out for the next generation."
The panel members were also questioned on culture within financial services and whether an old-boys' network still exists.
"I think it very much still feels to women (like it's) an old-boys' network," although there's a gap in perception with men viewing it, on average, as a fair workplace and women not seeing it that way, Morrissey said.
Fiona MacKenzie, CEO at think tank The Other Half, added that the City "doesn't feel like a very friendly place at all" if a woman is thinking about having children. "The motherhood piece is the piece that is poorly addressed in a lot of the public diversity activity you'll see," although there are highly motivated leaders trying to fix it, she added.
While the U.K.'s Women in Finance Charter — which calls on financial services firms to improve the gender balance — shows improvement in female representation at senior management level, at 35% on average, "I'm afraid that seems to be ... a few women battling their way through to the top, rather than the day-to-day experience of women throughout the City improving," Morrissey said.
In fund management, for example, just 12% of named money managers — those running an account with their name on it — are women, "and that's hardly changed in the whole 36 years since I've been in the City," she added.
Morrissey concluded that there's been "a lot of emphasis on tone from the top" when it comes to sexism in financial services, but she things "it's the tone within. It's the middle." Most employees don't work for the CEO, but rather for somebody lower down in the organization. "A lot of the recommendations, a lot of the initiatives that have been set up have tended to focus on the top management, and now we've got to get lower," Morrissey said.