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No breeders, thank you

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.

Comments (35)

Comments
  1. All the ‘isms are alive and well in the City. Noone should be surprised by this article.

    MBA & CFA Grad Reply
     
  2. these guys should not forget that without mothers, they would not be here.

  3. True. I have a friend who moved to Merril and than fell pregnant..then, a very grumpy boss. But she actually planned it, cause previous employer had worse leave conditions apparently.

  4. At least someone who dared to speak what the others are thinking. I have experienced this attitude so many times and funnily enough now, being 40+ I have more job offers than in the past 20 years all together. I wonder why.

  5. Its quite a healthy age to be reproducing, we wouldnt want to be having kids with abnormalities after having kids after 40 wld we.

  6. Hum… It looks like the manager in question should rather target the men who bring the women to breed.

  7. Yes, and when we are out of THAT age bracket – then we can be told that we are too old; need to actually CARE for these children; younger people can work longer hours, etc.
    Perhaps this company can tell us all what our society is going to be like when there are not enough of these children growing up to pay taxes…or who they will blame when unattended children grow up be behave as badly as this person is appearing to!

  8. I too have lived through all the isms, as well as having brought up two children whilst working full time – but because I’ve been dogged in my approach (as well as the major breadwinner) and have persevered in the market. Legislation has done very little to help with attitudes, since we all know how difficult it is to bring a successful case and then still find that people want to hire you after you’ve won. Since men choose to generally hire men (the women scare them) the likelihood of these trends being maintained is high. Not all employers are like this, but the majority are.

  9. Such people are in minority. Actually most of the employers will go out of the way to hire women because of the constant pressure from legislation and media. Infact things have become so good for child bearing women in big firms that it has started causing resentment among men and other women without children. I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing but it should not be overdone and women are definitely not victims anymore

  10. Many of us want to do the right thing and hire on merit. Unfortunately, many of us are also aware of situations where some women plan to fall pregnant soon after finding employment with great conditions, and who could blame her. But, striving to achieve a mutually benficial outcome requires a meeting of minds that is determined by intention on both sides. However, the asymmetric nature of information about intention means it comes down to a game of probabilities and THAT is the essence of the banking game. The hiring banker will make a decision based on the probability of winning a mutually beneficial outcome, and well, we know the majority of those outcomes, a man gets the job. That’s hardly discrimination, that’s just banking. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

  11. i think women should stick to female professions like housecleaning, washing, cooking and leave the real work to men.

  12. Speaking as someone who has been blatently lied to by several women who have taken maternity leave, I don’t blame people with this attitude. I’m fed up with having to cover roles from ‘existing headcount’ (ie work more hours myself to do their work and mine) as I have to keep job open only to find out they then resign after 12m or want something different when it gets round to return.

    Yes I am female but as an employer the current rules do not help those left with the work. And then having to cover when the child is ill so they stay at home, have school events etc etc. As a single female myself i’d like to know what my reward is for covering maternity leave, child care absence etc etc!

  13. Most probably a truly case, headhunters must filter the enormous amount of candidats by different ways.
    Headhunters are on reality the people that nourish themselves with the needs of the real workers. They get pay for being intermediaries and profit out of their position. I should say that those “parasites” wouldn’t exist in a world of full emploiment.

  14. Like a lot of things you can’t legislate for honesty. If we promote a climate of fear then we will see people covering themselves to protect their own interests.

    Sounds like the headhunter in question isn’t getting the calibre of clients they wish they did because they would not need to discriminate for any reason.

    However women need to be clever without being amoral. I know of people who move from corporate to corporate just to get redundancy packages. Is this any different? Or a market driver in its own right?

  15. I am currently acting for seven female clients all of whom work or worked in the City and all of whom have committed a variety of sins ranging from 2 – being a woman and a mother of one, to 5 – being a woman and a mother of four. The City is dominated by men – one of whom recently boasted “I do not employ pregnant women on my Desk”. When successfully sued, he said he was ‘Sorry’ ! Sorry that he was caught out not sorry he said it.

    The City is ‘alive and well’ but not with the sound of enlightened men or HR professionals.

    One of my clients has called these women who are prepared to take on the Banks and sue, “21st Century Suffragettes”. But legal action merely ensures that the woman never again works in the City and the bosses are all given budgets to pay for the damages awarded in discrimination cases. It is most depressing.

    Gillian Howard Reply
     
  16. I saw worse cases: female colleague fell pregnant, and she lost all promotion opportunities. Shortly after giving birth, she hired a nanny to take care of the child, worked the same as before, her boss just didn’t appreciate. I left the firm when I had a better offer – largely because I didn’t like such culture in the firm. I have a lovely daughter and when she grows up, I will never expect her to work for such a firm.

  17. Women have far too much power in the workplace today! I think it’s perfectly acceptable to refuse to hire someone on the grounds that they might fall pregnant. In any case, I would never work for a woman – useless, scatty and bitchy.

    jonny wilkinson Reply
     
  18. I would do the same as the client. My overall goal would be to do well for my shareholders. All other things being equal, to hire a woman where there is a chance she will go on maternity leave is to hire the weaker candidate for the job.

  19. I agree wholeheartedly with L in Risk Management. I’m in my early thirties, happily married with no intention of having kids. I find myself having to cover other women who are off on maternity leave using existing headcount (not their fault, blame the bank HR policy) and the occasional emergency day off when the kids fall sick/nanny fails to turn up (not their fault, blame an economy where childcare costs almost as much as an average London salary).

    On the other hand, I’m getting “tarred” with the same brush and from the sounds of this article and the comments posted, denied possible career opportunities just because of my child bearing potential! I work harder and longer than anyone else in my office, male or female, and have arguably had the most successful career out of my graduate group but it seems I just can’t win on this one!

    Don’t hire a woman who is about to go on maternity leave (fine, at least that’s an improvement on jonny wilkinson’s attitude!) – but don’t think that all women want to get pregnant – some of us want a career (and no, we’re not competing with you just because you’re men…)

  20. I ‘m not interested in family yet, anyway, i think many comments are sad. I think there are many things outside money and work and kids are one of those things and to sacrify a normal but far from boring family life in the name of a career is stupid.

    At 50 or 60 you’ll realize that you are alone with absolutely no one, but you’ll have a wonderful career but youngsters will have taken your place, you’ll be disgusted and will have plenty of time to think that you achieved nothing except having a big bank account and you won’t even have any kids to inherit. I consider that most women will have kids and it’s normal and they are right. You have the methods.

    Life must not be summed up in 2 words: finance and work. There is a life after work, and kids are part of it. I think men should change but women should not sacrify this because of this. I’m a guy and I’m really in favour of a paternity leave too. You live just once and i dont want to miss these moments.

  21. Stupid comments all way long: a clever guy should think in favour of pregnancy and maternity leave: i feel much more threat in a woman and colleague who does not want to have babies because she wants to fly high, than in a woman who wants to get a maternity leave. On a career point of view: dangerous!!

  22. women should not seek careers in finance and should stick to non demanding jobs. It’s not their place to be in this demanding profession and should leave this to pros who can handle it. Women are useless at this type of job.

  23. Sadly the laws that have been put in place to protect employers from treating pregnant employees badly are open to abuse. Regular lateness, absenteeism, lack of cooperation, poor attitude, failure to actually do any work – even if not directly related to pregnancy – cannot easily be addressed without fear of litigation.

    Of course, these laws were put in place because of unscrupulous behaviour by employers, so it could be argued that the wheel has turned full circle.

  24. I was told when I started my job “Officially we offer maternity leave. In reality you’re not allowed to get pregnant” Welcome to the City.

  25. An MP was quoted as saying a small company would be insane to hire a woman of child bearing age. A small company that hires, trains, passes over clients and develops a business area for a woman who then says she’s off on maternity leave and will let you know for sure in about a year whether or not she’s returning can surely empathise with the MP’s remarks. Small financial institutions now employ more staff than their larger counterparts.

    If we seek to encourage women into the City, and we should, then we need to ensure matters are more equitable for the employer. If a woman goes on maternity leave then is it fair that a small company should keep the position ‘vacant’ or only temporarily filled?

    The law, ever an ass, needs to have rules for small companies that take into account their needs as well as those of the fairer sex. If not, then legal obligations will play against the very people they’re been created to protect. Not much point in having maternity rights if a woman can’t get a job because everyone is scared of those rights?

  26. when i read a few comments i have the feeling that banks are the weak parties. Stop! this is a male dominated area and some people try to say that a few pregnant women can disorganize or destroy the industry because they leave during a few months. Wake up! .
    concerning the statement “Officially we offer maternity leave,In reality you’re not allowed to get pregnant” , this is simply against human rights, right to do what you want with your body. Disgusting.

  27. What these men need to realise is that a woman can take time off for maturnity leave and come back to work. And when the come back to work they can be a mother and a career woman because they are capable of balancing both… something that men would never be capable of.

  28. Hunter, HR & Recruitment, Thu 12 Jul 07 has hit nail on head.

  29. Boy what dumb prejudices and/or selfishness!! What goes around comes around and if you make the effort to accomodate parental needs then everyone benefits except those for whom work is their life (who may then be able to change for the better!). People without kids already have way more money and free time so what extra benefits do you want? And lastly women in the city that have kids work twice as hard and more diligently than those who feel its all about ‘putting in the hours’ as they are so paranoid about the discrimination they face.

  30. To Jonny “I would never work for a woman – useless, scatty and bitchy” Wilkinson; it’s not nice to talk about your mother like that…. By the way, to those who are talking about women “planning” to get pregnant as soon as they get a job with the right conditions – are you aware that most women can’t just have babies by snapping their fingers, it can take months or even years for it to happen. Therefore, I firmly believe that the majority of those that fall pregnant just after taking up a new role are unlikely to have planned it that way deliberately.

    Also, given that this kind of discrimination is alive and well, despite all the legislation, and the continuing grumbles from those who are left to pick up the slack when a woman goes on maternity leave, (by the way, “L”, your compensation is the fact that you’ll have all those extra years of pension contibutions that the mothers will have missed out on. And if your HR dept insists that you use existing resources to cover, how is that the fault of the woman on maternity leave?)

    I wonder whether we are getting to a point where women will have to prove that we are using some form of contraceptive before we can get hired?

  31. This actual happens to the private equity company that I work for.

    www.euromillions-vwd.info Reply
     
  32. To Jonny “I would never work for a woman – useless, scatty and bitchy” Wilkinson; it’s not nice to talk about your mother like that…. By the way, to those who are talking about women “planning” to get pregnant as soon as they get a job with the right conditions – are you aware that most women can’t just have babies by snapping their fingers, it can take months or even years for it to happen. Therefore, I firmly believe that the majority of those that fall pregnant just after taking up a new role are unlikely to have planned it that way deliberately.

    Also, given that this kind of discrimination is alive and well, despite all the legislation, and the continuing grumbles from those who are left to pick up the slack when a woman goes on maternity leave, (by the way, “L”, your compensation is the fact that you’ll have all those extra years of pension contibutions that the mothers will have missed out on. And if your HR dept insists that you use existing resources to cover, how is that the fault of the woman on maternity leave?)

    I wonder whether we are getting to a point where women will have to prove that we are using some form of contraceptive before we can get hired?

  33. If you have resource problems when covering for a woman have on maternity leave, then take this out on HR who should organise things better, not on the woman who has committed the “sin” of becoming pregnant.

    You may be interested to know that 6 months paternity leave is on the cards. What will banks do then? Refuse to hire any man of child procreating age?

  34. Its true. The city of london is simply a group of individuals a mini society if you wil. I personally have faced racism and know girls who felt they were being sexually discriminated for certain roles they went for. However as is ALWAYS the case anyone who speaks out is ridiculed for pulling the race card or the sex card! Lose- lose situation. :(

  35. I concur with the comment regarding the problems of females in the City – first experiencing problems because of being of childbearing age (many do not have children as they need to be sure of being able to support themselves financially)Subsequently women are suffering age discrimination far earlier than men – it seems that women in the city have to be attractive to men to succeed and this perceived attractiveness declines after a certain age.

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