No breeders, thank you

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Rumour has it there's a new name for female bankers of child-bearing age.

According to one headhunter (who steadfastly refuses to go on the record), at least one of his clients specifies that candidates he puts forward mustn't be women liable to take time off for procreation - AKA 'breeders'.

Given this rules out just about every woman aged from 16 to 40 (or even 60 thanks to IVF), it obviously infringes sex discrimination legislation. Nor does it bode particularly well for banks' aspirations to bump up the proportion of female managing directors from 20% to something more in line with the proportion of women in the general population.

Question is, how common is the 'breeder' moniker? Not very, according to recruiters. "I've never, ever heard that word used," says Alex Williams, a consultant at Pelham International. "I don't know who his client is, but it's somewhat offensive. All my clients are cognisant of equal relations and want the best person whether it's a woman or a man," he adds.

Banks' diversity specialists are equally dismissive. "This kind of thing is very unusual and, if true, would probably come from a single rogue line manager," says one.