Clamp down on 'alpha male' bonus culture, MPs warn City

Posted On: 
13th June 2018

Women are being held back from top-flight finance jobs by an “alpha male” culture, a powerful committee of MPs has warned.

The Treasury Committee warns that women in the City are being put off by a lack of flexible working and opaque bonus structures

A new report by the cross-party Treasury Committee says that a macho culture in the City is the “overwhelming reason” women give for not getting involved in senior finance careers.

The group of MPs warns that there is a 52% gap between what women and men take home in bonuses at banks, and they urge financial firms to overhaul their bonus structures in a bid to tackle the problem.

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"The alpha-male culture in some organisations is evident in bonus negotiations, where it's perceived that men argue more forcefully for bonuses than women,” the committee warns.

They add: "This can result in higher rewards for men, and acts as a deterrent for women. Performance bonuses should be assessed against clearly objective and formulaic criteria.”

The committee also calls on big financial firms to do much more to promote flexible working, warning that a culture of “presenteeism” can only be challenged if senior men “lead by example”.

“This would benefit the entire workforce by enabling all employees to balance personal responsibilities with their careers,” they say.

Elsewhere, the group of MPs urge Philip Hammond to bang the drum for equality, saying that while City Minister John Glen has branded the exemption of some smaller firms from gender pay gap reporting as “outrageous”, Mr Hammond has been less vocal.

“The Committee has also noted that it would like to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer as vociferous as the Economic Secretary,” they say.

Launching the report, Treasury Committee chair Nicky Morgan said tackling the problem could lead to “better financial performance, reduced groupthink and more open discussions”.

She added: “The next step must be for firms to set out how they will abolish their gender pay gap and support the progression of women. Firms should focus on changing the culture in financial services firms, which remains a deterrent for women, especially the bonus culture.

“In the current bonus culture – whereby individuals argue how well they have performed – it's perceived that men argue more forcefully for bonuses, which can disadvantage women. This should be replaced by a system where performance bonuses are assessed against objective and formulaic criteria.

“Firms should also encourage flexible working, promote returner schemes for women on maternity leave, and re-examine their recruitment and promotion policies to eliminate unconscious bias – people recruiting in the own image – to avoid both group think and potential applicants being deterred."

The report was welcomed by the Chartered Insurance Institute, which said the industry needed to “urgently address this issue if we are to attract the best talent and remain competitive in the marketplace in the years to come”.

A CII spokesperson added: "Ultimately, ensuring that the contributions and potential of our female talent is fully recognised, valued, developed and rewarded is the first step to building a profession more representative of the public we serve.”