Sexism in the City: A Call for Change

  • 8 March 2024
  • Blog | Professionalism and Ethics | Blog

The financial services sector, a cornerstone of the UK economy, thrives on innovation, collaboration, and growth. Yet according to the UK’s Treasury Committee Report on Sexism in the City Report published today, beneath the glossy skyscrapers and bustling trading floors, a darker reality persists—one that disproportionately affects women. The report sheds light on this issue, revealing both progress and persistent challenges.

The Landscape

  1. Industry Significance: The financial services sector employs over 2.5 million people in the UK, contributing significantly to economic output and tax revenue. However, the industry’s treatment of women remains a critical concern.
  2. Past Efforts: In 2018, the predecessor committee investigated “Women in Finance.” While acknowledging progress, it emphasized the need for further initiatives to improve gender balance.

Key Findings

  1. Incremental Improvements: The report acknowledges some positive trends, such as an increase in women holding senior roles. However, these gains are overshadowed by persistent issues.
  2. Sexual Harassment: Shockingly, sexual harassment and bullying continue to plague the City. Despite efforts, progress has been disappointingly slow. Women still face unnecessary barriers on their path to leadership.
  3. Gender Pay Gaps: The report highlights the stubborn persistence of gender pay gaps. Closing this divide remains a priority.
  4. Women on Boards: Gender parity on boards remains elusive. The glacial pace of improvement underscores the urgency of addressing this imbalance.


  1. Culture Shift: The City must foster a culture of respect, equality, and accountability. Zero tolerance for harassment is non-negotiable.
  2. Transparency: Companies should disclose gender pay data openly. Transparency drives change.
  3. Leadership Commitment: Boards and executives must champion diversity. Their commitment sets the tone for the entire organisation.
  4. Effective Escalation: Reporting mechanisms for sexual harassment must be robust and accessible. Women should feel empowered to raise concerns without fear of reprisal.

In response, The Chartered Banker Institute provided written evidence to the Inquiry and is committed to promoting gender diversity within the banking sector. With just over 50% of its members being female, the Institute recognizes that issues of diversity and equality are critical for the sector’s success.

Here’s our approach to breaking down barriers:

  1. Research and Insights: The Institute conducts regular surveys with its members and research in partnership with organisations like The Finance Foundation. Our latest survey on gender diversity and progression in the workplace revealed that significant barriers still hinder rapid progress. By understanding these challenges, the Institute can develop targeted strategies.
  2. Career Progression: The Institute aims to create equal opportunities for all banking professionals. Our focus is on initiatives such as mentoring programmes to help individuals reach their full potential. By addressing career progression barriers, we empower women to advance within the sector.
  3. Pay Transparency: The Institute advocates for greater pay transparency across the banking sector. Understanding pay gaps and ensuring fair compensation is essential for achieving gender equality. These efforts contribute to a more equitable workplace.
  4. Ethical Professionalism: The Institute believes that fair treatment of customers must be accompanied by the fair treatment of colleagues. By fostering an environment of equality and opportunity, we contribute to a more inclusive and diverse banking profession.

In summary, the Chartered Banker Institute actively works toward dismantling gender-related barriers, ensuring that all professionals have an equal chance to thrive in banking. We believe that good leadership is inclusive leadership which links professionalism, ethical judgement and fairness.

Moving Forward

As Chartered Banker Institute, COO, Joanne Murphy observes, “The report’s release coincides with International Women’s Day – a poignant reminder that progress is not a given. As we navigate the complexities of the financial world, let us collectively dismantle the barriers that hinder women’s advancement. Together, we can create a landscape and a banking profession where talent knows no gender and where every woman’s voice is heard.”

Read the full report here.



Note: The Government has two months to respond to the report’s recommendations.12


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