Recently, I was contacted by the BBC Radio 4 current affairs programme, “The Report”, who were investigating the dynamics of sex discrimination cases in the City.
Keen to investigate sex discrimination in London banking, the BBC knew about the Employment Lawyers at Slater and Gordon through my work on high profile discrimination cases Tofeji v BNP Paribas and Fariad v Tradition Securities & Futures. They got in touch to ask if cases like this still went on in financial services, and how prevalent discrimination was.
The interview would not be about any individual confidential cases, which the BBC knew I could not discuss, but a general discussion about my experience and perception, having dealt with City discrimination cases for over a decade. Had there been a change? Did the reality match general public perception? And, if not, why not?
We talked about the fact that the two issues are really very closely linked. Although cases of sex discrimination in the City are still astonishingly commonplace, this does not appear to be widely realised since almost all cases settle confidentially. This, along with the fear of stigma, prevents women speaking out about the discrimination they have suffered.
Consequently, it is only the very occasional case fought at Tribunal, which reaches public knowledge; and so there is no general awareness of the scale of the problem, or the continued urgency to tackle it.
The programme makers were able to obtain some first-hand accounts of bullying and harassment at work which genuinely bring the issues to light, and I am sure will make an impression upon those who listen. The show also interviews colleagues who anonymously share their views, and provide further insight into what is really going on, and how much needs to change.
I have seen too many women pushed out of their careers in financial services because of discrimination. It comes in many forms – clients not being restored after maternity leave, failure to promote or selection for redundancy, women paid only a fraction of the bonuses that go to male colleagues, as well as the more overt spiteful type of harassment described in this programme.
The good news is that we are able to negotiate settlements successfully, often at an early stage, with decent compensation to allow our clients to get on with their lives. But the truth is that more fundamental change needs to happen, so that talented individuals are able to progress their careers without being ambushed needlessly first.
I applaud the programme makers for bringing this to light. Enough really is enough now.
Samantha Mangwana is a Principal Employment Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
Radio 4's special edition of ‘The Report’ about sexual discrimination in the banking sector originally aired at 8pm on 30th April 2015.
You can listen again here.
If you have suffered sexual discrimination in the workplace, call Slater and Gordon Employment Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9060. Our contact centre is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Alternatively, contact us online and we'll get back to you.