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Junior male bankers complain of harassment by women in HR

Women harassing men banking

Maybe it was inevitable. No sooner had a junior female intern at a bank in London complained of inappropriate advances from her (male) boss during her internship last summer, than male bankers have begun complaining of abuse by senior women – and particularly by senior women in HR.

Two men have taken to the comments box below our previous article to complain of harassment by women in the City. One accuses women in HR of sexually harassing him. Another says he was the routinely subject to “inappropriate comments and advances” by his senior manager when he was an intern in a large British bank. “It was extremely humiliating,” he writes. “There is this false notion that men cannot be victims of sexual harassment.”

A VP at a U.S. bank says women in HR (and women generally) exploit their position in other ways too: “Pregnant women always complain about bonuses. Women always go to other women in HR to complain about promotions. And some women always go to HR so that they have the upper hand in redundancies.”

Men vastly outnumber women in senior banking roles (typically in the ratio of 4:1 at managing director) level, making it vastly easier for men to perpetrate abuse. However, women are generally in the majority in human resources (HR) functions, where they account for 58% of heads of HR according to think tank New Financial. 

Andrew Pullman, a veteran City of London HR head, turned-managing director of banking HR support firm People Risk Solutions, says harassment in all businesses is linked to the abuse of power. While HR staff are supposed to be a check on the power of senior managers (and indeed supported the intern in our previous article), Pullman says HR staff have effectively been given more power by legislation like MiFID II, which imposes tighter guidelines on the minimum competency requirements of staff. This sets the stage for power struggles, says Pullman, adding that both male and female bosses can treat employees badly.

Whether female HR staff subject junior male staff to sexual harassment is another question. With women typically running junior selection processes, the potential for an abuse of power certainly exists, but HR isn’t a role that usually attracts predatory types.

Either way, junior male bankers aren’t alone in complaining about the women above them. A male trainee on the legal website RollonFriday says a female partner harassed he and a colleague on the trainee intake and that they decided not attend departmental drinks to avoid any awkward situations.


Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com

Comments (3)

Comments
  1. “Men vastly outnumber women in senior banking roles (typically in the ratio of 4:1 at managing director) level, making it vastly easier for men to perpetrate abuse. ” – because all the men obviously band together to form Team Patriarchy to keep women down!

  2. Charlie – good point. But there is more bias in the below:
    “With women typically running junior selection processes, the potential for an abuse of power certainly exists, but HR isn’t a role that usually attracts predatory types.”
    HR is a role that is based on BS and often involves outright lying to keep employees focused on making money for the firm. It seems that the bias here is that because it’s mostly staffed by women=not predatory.

  3. One reason people often don’t come forward to speak about sexual harassment is due to the fear of being disbelieved.

    I’m not a junior professional, and I don’t claim that I was groped by HR staff or that I was offered career advancement in exchange for sexual favours, but sexual harassment takes many forms, and in my case the harassment I received was more in the nature of sexual humiliation and sexualised conversation which would not have happened had I been female. The harassment was an abuse of power, through a combination of gaucheness by an inexperienced HR person, and more overtly abusive communication from a more senior HR person. Its difficult to know how to complain to when the people who are harassing you are the people who are supposed to be protecting you, but I did complain to senior management. Nothing was done.

    I’m not sure why it would be thought that HR wouldn’t necessarily attract predatory people, and I can think of a few jobs where in the past the same beliefs might have been held, but where it has transpired that a number of predators have worked. Any job which involves a duty to care for a number of sometimes vulnerable people without much accountability attracts more than its fair share of predators, and HR are often insulated by senior management as they provide a buffer and because senior HR staff know a lot of ‘dirt’ and are difficult to remove. Not of course to say that all HR staff are predators, but it is a job which attracts a number of individuals who like to abuse their positions of power.

    I would put the percentage of female HR staff at 70-80%+ in the banking sector based on the banks I’ve worked for, although the lack of diversity in HR departments is only part of the reason for sexual harassment in banking, as is the lack of diversity among senior executive management, who are mostly male. The real problem is one of abuse of power, and it is only by addressing this and recognising that both males and females can be at the receiving end, that inroads into solving the problem will be made.

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