Sid Madge is founder of Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise) which draws on the best...read more
City stereotypes persist, but the 10th Top Employer Awards showed firms that flourish adopt policies previously written off as fluffy
If I hadn’t been to the Top Employer Awards this week I may feel a bit depressed.
Specifically by reports that City workers want to reduce trading hours.
This follows news earlier in the week that Goldman Sachs, such a symbol of macho City culture, is whacking up its paternity leave offer. It all suggests the wolves of Wall Street are finally being domesticated. Evolution is inescapable.
But look at the reporting around the story of shorter City hours. The basic ask is to cut the trading day from 8am-4.30pm to 9am-4pm. Bear in mind there’s an awful lot of high octane high finance that takes place outwith those core hours. A change would address concerns about burn out, mental health and the family friendliness of the industry.
But, as so often, family friendly means woman friendly in the reporting.
The BBC coverage of the story went straight to a woman for quotes. Because women do childcare, right? Because if the City wants more women working there – and the financial crash showed what happens when there’s too little diversity – it needs to compromise with caring? It’s a category error. Men care too.
Altering trading hours in the City would be welcome. But mental health and childcare are issues affecting men too. The change would benefit everyone. Yet where were the men welcoming the consultation in the coverage? Seems journalism needs to look at itself when it comes to challenging stereotypes as much as high finance.
And there is a question about whether the switch to trading hours – which if it happened would take place in stock exchanges across Europe – is even necessary.
I recently gave a presentation at a City wealth management firm. During a thoughtful Q&A afterwards a female trader questioned whether flexible working could work when you’re a slave to the market. A dad piped up to point out that everything is done on computers now. Technology means you can just as easily buy and sell stocks from your bedroom as from the trading floor. It’s the culture that has to change.
And the Top Employer Awards made clear that the culture has changed and continues to do so.
This year was the 10th running of the Awards. And the first year that workingdads.co.uk was involved (because it’s the first year we’ve existed). There’s a very clear sign of change. Flexible working, part-time jobs and genuinely family friendly policies are no longer seen as the preserve of mums.
In her speech our founder Gillian Nissim took the opportunity to look back at how far we’ve come over the last decade. It’s fair to call her a visionary. Not just because she’s my boss and saw fit to hire me. But heaven knows what sort of person decides to set up an awards scheme recognising policies that were still regarded as fluffy and unnecessary 10 years ago as many firms focused exclusively on weathering the crash.
But of course being inclusive and fostering a workforce that is ultimately content and fulfilled is exactly the way to innoculate your firm against inclement economic forecasts. Like the ones we’re probably heading into over the next few years.
The Awards showed more and more firms are twigging to that.
So it was enthusing and gratifying to be in a room at the swanky Soho Hotel with so many people on the same page when it comes to genuinely family friendly work, and to mix with and talk to so many before and after the event. And it was inspiring to listen to lots of them look to the future too. In a sign of just how far diversity will go one judge talked about holograms joining the picture – literally.
So the coverage of City hours feels lazy at best, dangerously fuelled by stereotypes at worst. But the big takeaway from our Top Employers event was that it’s just one point on a fantastic journey.
It’s a long trip. Inevitably there’ll be lulls. But, like the top employers getting their gongs on Tuesday night, when we get there we’ll all be winners.