Listen to this article
March 27 was an excellent day for me. Not only did I turn 44 and enjoy the delight of my staff presenting me with a delicious sponge cake (they know I hate fruit cakes) and some perfect cut flowers in my favourite colours (yellow and white), but on that day both the Financial Times and a city trade publication published photographs of Anshu Jain. (One of these accompanied an article speculating on his compensation package. Who cares what he’s paid? Unlike some men I could name in the City, this is not someone who needs to stand on his wallet before women notice how attractive he is.)
Anshu Jain works for Deutsche Bank, a company that has a thriving women’s network and stages annual conferences for women in the financial services industry - its UK conference attracts vast numbers of attendees. I have never attended, but wondered what programme they had put on to get quite so many ladies to turn up. Having laid my hands on last year’s list of speakers, I see that one of them was Jain himself. No wonder the attendance was so high.
I attended an event held by another women’s network at the end of March. The organisation Women In Banking and Finance has been facilitating female networking in the City for 25 years. This year its quarterly Distinguished Speaker series includes my good self. Keen to know what kind of audience I would be addressing, I attended the March event incognito to hear the eminent economist DeAnne Julius speak. The host was the women’s network of a UK clearing bank, which, judging by its magazine and newsletter, provides myriad opportunities for the women in this vast organisation to meet and give each other a helping hand up the career ladder.
I am now going to volunteer my very un-pc view on employer-sponsored women’s networks: I think they are at bes unnecessary, and at worst discriminatory and a waste of shareholders’ money. Yes, networking is important for career progress, and yes, I suspect women have historically been less proactive at this than men (mainly because they have usually got better things to do after work, like going home to care for their family), but in 2006 I believe enough women are making it to senior positions not to need networking opportunities subsidised by employers. Why shouldn’t the men in these organisations enjoy subsidised food and drink, newsletter and intranet costs so they to can build useful internal contacts?
Personally, I think these networks should all be dismantled. Instead, both women and men should be encouraged to join, and be active in, organisations that allow them to meet other like-minded people who work in similar industries and build useful contacts. For instance, why not join the Guild of International Bankers, the City of London’s newest livery company? It has networking opportunities, distinguished speakers (far more distinguished than I) and a charitable arm so you can network while doing good. And it is open to both men and women.
But back to DeAnne Julius. The audience got a few tips on non-executive directorships (she holds several of these, including BP, Serco and Lloyds TSB) and a brisk romp through her career (summary: became economist, had two children, won equivalent of career lottery by being appointed to the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee). At the end, we got the best slide of all - her tips on running an equal opportunity household.
In short, this means educating your family to make sure they all understand that Mother’s career is just as important as Father’s, and that no one person should have to bear more than an equal share of the running of the household. In particular, Julius is a strong advocate of child labour, and pointed out that even a child of five could be very useful.
I sat there and realised where I have been going wrong - I have been looking after all three cost centres, and indeed their father, far too well. For a start, at weekends I morph into the laundry fairy, whisking dirty clothes off the floor and putting them in the washing machine. They then reappear as if by magic washed and ironed in drawers. Even during the week, the alternate laundry fairy is there, and who hires her, pays her and gives her instructions? Me. Then I send these children off to board at prep school where there are more laundry fairies. No wonder when cost centre #1 moved on to senior school he couldn’t get organised enough to remember to send his laundry off, and ended up turning his boxer shorts inside out to make them last longer.
I went home determined that things would change, and what better weekend to start than Mother’s Day. I summoned cost centre #3, age seven, to the dishwasher and asked him to unload it. To my amazement he did so, and even knew where everything went. Why have I never done this before? Cost centre #2 was put on bin duty and cost centre #1 instructed to help with the cooking. Good, he said, I need to learn to cook. He can now separate eggs, whip cream and cut up fruit. We moved on from cooking to laundry. To my horror he loaded all the dirty clothes into the drier, so further education was needed. I can see this will be a continuing programme, especially if I want to turn them into successful men. I wonder if Anshu Jain ever unloads the dishwasher?
To buy “Email from Tokyo”, a collection of Mrs Moneypenny’s original FT columns, for £4.99 plus p&p, call the FT ordering service on 0870 429 5884 or go to www.ft.com/bookshop