Maternity Leave

The London Paper  –  25 June 2007

“In the City it’s a sin to be a woman, but it’s an even greater sin to have a child”. This was the conclusion of last Sunday’s BBC 2 drama “Sex, the City and me”. This fictional one-off expose of the mistreatment of a female stockbroker who dared to go on maternity leave has become a major discussion point for my female colleagues. Despite an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, I remain unwaveringly convinced that the fact that this drama ended with the protagonist winning £3m of damages off her employer for giving her a paltry £15K bonus has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with their interest.

Having said that I couldn’t help feeling that the mid-30’s ladies who had gathered around the water cooler on Monday chatting away in excited tones somewhat resembled a gaggle of geese that had recently discovered that they do in fact have the ability to lay golden eggs. It was when I nervously approached these women in order to get my traditional postprandial 3pm sugar rush from the snack machine and they refused to part that I realised something was afoot.

“Hello ladies!” – I bellowed, with all the fake confidence a decade in this dreadful career had instilled in me. One looked at her mates and with a sneer said “Ladies? Isn’t that a sexist term?” whilst another one said “Definitely worth a few hundred grand I reckon”. Somewhat on the back foot I explained that I was only being friendly but, like a bunch of pissed up scousers on a hen night, they simply ‘wouldn’t let it lie’. I quickly realised I was on a hiding to nothing and as I departed with my tail between my legs I heard one shout “Why don’t you slap me on the arse and we’ll go 70:30 with the winnings?” which was followed by a cackle of witch-like laughter.

This whole experience got me thinking about the sexual dynamics in this appalling profession. For some God-forsaken reason women have been struggling for some time to enter the hallowed walls of the Square Mile. The fact they’re here shows that money is their principal motivator and that they’re adept at analysing risk and reward. Whilst suing a bank can be a costly business and means getting another investment banking job ain’t gonna happen it is an entirely logical thing to do when a woman reaches a certain age and wants to have kids. Last Sunday’s drama gave the impression that suing banks is tough but most women I know who’ve done so have quickly won an out-of-court settlement because banks are incredibly rich and can’t be arsed with bad publicity.

To me, the mystery is that more women don’t go for it since there’s enough sexist banter in most banks to keep you in Manolo Blahniks for the rest of your life. I have no doubt that if white, heterosexual men could leave with an extra couple of million we’d be suing constantly. Call me a depraved, immoral cynic but I’m seriously considering some kind of sex-change operation in the next year or two because I want a piece of this action.

Thoughts ?

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