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How male bankers unintentionally ruin female colleagues’ careers

Mistaken belief that women need to be mollycoddled

Mistaken belief that women need to be mollycoddled

If you work in financial services, it is important to be polite. However, you can be too polite – especially if you’re managing women.

Men are instinctively more polite to women than other men. Various ugly legal cases in the financial services industry have made the situation worse, not better. Many women are used to men being at least formally polite to them. When they are criticized by men, they therefore feel the heat of this criticism very harshly – unlike men, who are routinely very frank with each other.

If we assume that women are as competent as men, we must expect them to screw up as often as men do. And we should expect women to be reprimanded for their shortcomings.This doesn’t have to involve screaming. It does mean providing useful feedback. However, as things stand, male bankers are being too nice to their female colleague and that’s depriving young female bankers of important feedback.

Personally, I was once asked – “Dominic, don’t you feel you’d be happier doing something you’re good at?” This helped me to re-calibrate what I was doing and that re-calibration was a lot less painful than the mistakes I was about to make.

Male bankers’ suppression of the urge to criticize female colleagues in the way they’d criticize males can cause problems. Criticism gets bottled up until an explosion occurs. Alternatively, a woman (and her lawyer) can complain that it was only after a bonus was reduced or she was laid off that she learned her work wasn’t up to scratch.

Yes, I’m a man writing this. – I’m just pointing out what a lot of men will not say directly.

To progress in any role, it is necessary to become better at a job. And it is necessary to become better  at a job in a way that a boss thinks is good. No one is smart enough to work out precisely what ‘good’ means without feedback, a large chunk of which will be highly negative.

If you’re a woman in financial services, you therefore need to reassure your boss that you won’t fold up and die/sue if he uses the odd expletive or says your work is ‘cr*p.’ He doesn’t want HR on his back and is fighting 2,000 years of treating women like ladies. He needs your help. 

Dominic Connor is a Headhunter for Quants and anyone else who misuses maths in finance, he also teaches C++ for reasons he refuses to discuss.

Comments (2)

  1. In the interests of balanced journalism you should write this from the other perspective too… How female bankers can ruin the careers of men… It is just as easy in the Sociopathic world of banking for this to happen.

  2. Whenever I work with all-male teams (I coach company boards and senior teams in financial services) they tell me how much better behaved they are in my presence. I wonder if they are worried that my delicate sensibilities won’t be able to cope with the rough and tumble of their world. The truth is that I like the banter, the crude humour and the double-entendres. But being rude isn’t the same as being direct. And despite the examples given above, my overwhelming experience of most teams (male, female or mixed) is that they avoid difficult conversations, they avoid having the discussions they really should have, they don’t confront the real issues in a direct way. Sometimes the meetings I observe are so vague I don’t have any idea what the guys are talking about. Neither do most of them. And I don’t believe they are doing it that way for my benefit.

    My suggestion is that men and women at work speak in a professional, respectful but direct manner. Honestly guys, we can take it. But are you man enough to do it?

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