Listen to this article
Young women working in finance say they are still being discriminated against, demeaned and objectified because of their gender, even though they experience fewer instances of overt sexual harassment than their predecessors.
The FT contacted dozens of millennials working in financial services after some senior industry figures told the newspaper that younger staff do not have to worry about harassment and discrimination because attitudes have evolved and companies have put safeguards in place.
Most of the millennials approached did not want to discuss their experiences but about 10 agreed to talk anonymously.
A 35-year-old trader who worked in London, Hong Kong and Paris said she experienced men propositioning her and behaving “horrendously” as recently as 2015 at a European investment bank.
The misconduct included inappropriate messages and repeated attempts to kiss her, even though she made a conscious decision to dress “like a man” to avoid attention.
While the culture was created by older men, she said, men of her age participated. “Millennial guys that have power, they are the guys that went with the boss to go to strippers, this is where bonding was done,” she said.
A 26-year-old banker in New York said she knew of women who had left the industry because of sexual harassment and that she had experienced it at a large US company.
She did not report the harassment — which she described as “more of a nuisance” — to her employer, because she “didn’t want to have this reputation of having reported something like that”.
“[Sexual harassment] is more complicated, more subtle [than it was],” she said. “It’s going on under the table.” She experienced problems with senior men and men her own age.
An older City worker who is involved with a women’s network said millennials “have it tougher. Because if they speak up they are branded a snowflake”.
Other millennial women said that while they had not been sexually harassed, they felt their gender worked against them.
One 31-year-old who works for a US bank recalled “an older male manager from a different division [treated] me as clerical staff, sharing his calendar with me for no apparent reason and asking me to book his meetings despite my role being a software developer in a totally different team”. “I assume it’s because I was a young woman,” she added.
A 23-year-old working for a UK bank said the “biggest issue” she faced was convincing colleagues she was competent at maths, excel and data and that she was “thought of as not very intelligent based on the way I look”.
“I have been told multiple times that I only got certain jobs and certain roles because I am female,” she added.
A 22-year-old working for a financial services recruiter in the UK said she had been asked if she was writing shopping lists in a meeting.
Not all millennials the FT talked to think sexual harassment and gender discrimination are a problem for their generation.
A 21-year-old Russian working in the City said the topic of sexual harassment was “paid too much attention”. A French woman working as an economic consultant in London said that while she had “heard more complaints” from her peers “I personally did not think those were an issue”.
She believes that millennials are too sensitive about gender issues. “Although millennials aim to create equality, I think they are instead widening the divide. Personally I think that the whole #metoo movement has taken things too far.”
A 21-year-old financial services recruiter working in the UK said people “seem to take offence too easily these days just because of the big hype around gender diversity where there is no need and no harm is being caused”.
“Of course, I believe that there should be gender equality and it’s amazing how far women’s rights especially, have come,” she added. “But sometimes there is too much pressure on ‘what is right to say’.”
A millennial man working at an asset management company in London said that the work environment he had experienced in Singapore and London had been “professional and not inappropriate at all”.