Ross Clark

Sex and the City: the paradox of women bankers who can’t negotiate a bonus

Sex and the City: the paradox of women bankers who can't negotiate a bonus
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I am sure there must have been a time when feminism was concerned with the interests of the low-paid and disadvantaged – before, that is, it became almost wholly concerned with powerful, well-paid women demanding even higher money. Nicky Morgan and her Treasury Select Committee have found an injustice which puts into the shade the gross injustices suffered by female BBC presenters on £150,000 a year. They have identified a ‘gender bonus gap’ in the City which they say is a whopping 67 per cent.

The reason, contends Morgan, is that female City workers are put off by the grubby business of having to negotiate their own bonuses. This practice, she says, “should be replaced by a system where performance bonuses are assessed against objective and formulaic criteria”. Whether women are less capable than men at negotiating their own bonuses is not an issue on which I feel qualified to judge, but if – as Morgan implies – they are, wouldn’t that be a good reason why City firms might be reluctant to employ them? Surely the whole point of many City jobs is to cut hard-nosed deals. If you are incapable of holding your own in negotiations over your own bonus then what hope have you in getting your employer a good deal in aluminium futures, or whatever?

You can call the City a brutish place, argue that it is a parasite on society and that banking needs a complete change of culture so as to make it socially useful. But it is deeply odd to do as Morgan does: defend the City’s money-grabbing activities, complaining only that women aren’t getting a fair slice of the fat salaries and bonuses on offer.

Morgan, like many current feminists, seems to want it both ways. She wants to claim that women are just as capable of doing top jobs as are men – yet when it suits her she is quite happy to make out that women are weak creatures who are losing out to more assertive men and so need the rules loaded in their favour. Sorry, but where the City is concerned, assertion is one of the chief skills required. If Morgan really believes that women lack this skill she should either accept that they are not cut-out for City careers – or damn the culture and practices of the City altogether, not just its pay policies.