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Six in the City – 07 April 2008

Less cash not a PC stance is likely to cut the industry’s use of strip clubs, says Marcel Le Gouais

Sexual harassment and discrimination must rank high on the list of topics that managing directors hope will never emerge in boardroom discussions.

But the subject is back in the media spotlight after the Fawcett Society warned last week that sexism is rife in the City and tough action is required to stamp it out.

The group campaigns for women’s rights and is tackling sexual harassment at work.

“There has been a lot of focus on the pay gap and lack of flexible working,” says Kat Banyard, campaigns director at the Fawcett Society. “But we are looking at the less talked about issues of sexual harassment and women’s day-to-day experiences.”

The society launched a manifesto, Sexism in the City, as part of a campaign to stop strip clubs being used for business meetings.

Certainly there’s been no shortage of cases that have emerged from the City over the past five years in which bankers were alleged to have behaved badly.

In January 2006, German investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein was sued for nearly £800m by six female employees in one of the biggest sex discrimination cases ever seen.

The plaintiffs, based in London and New York, claimed they were denied top jobs, paid less and forced to work in a hostile environment. They cited the firm’s meetings with clients at strip clubs as part of the problem.

In May last year the bank published a statement saying the case had been settled out of court without admission of liability to the satisfaction of both sides.

We all know the mortgage industry has its fair share of strip club jaunts. And the showcase of bunny girls, buxom blondes and scantily-clad beauties at last autumn’s Mortgage Business Expo showed that old school values remain intact.

But the thought of contravening the principles the suffragette movement fought for so long ago will not keep many lenders, brokers and packagers awake at night.

Some female City workers might be relieved to hear that seedy nights out are likely to be on the wane as corporate entertainment becomes the latest casualty of the liquidity crisis.

Market turmoil is making it difficult enough for firms to pay proc fees, let alone slide a few tenners into a stripper’s fishnet stockings.

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