I'm a woman in banking. I'm a vice president and am nearly a decade into my career in the investment banking division (IBD) of a European bank in London. I am at an age when you might expect to have a child. - I would certainly like to have a child, but I believe that my banking career is making it difficult for me to conceive.
When you're a woman in your mid-30s, fertility is not a given. If you're working 80 hours a week and are exhausted, conceiving a child doesn't necessarily happen as easily as you might think. I know, and I am not the only one to have this problem. For women in finance, the heavy workload, the high stress and the lack of sleep not only make it difficult to find a partner, but are a recipe for hormonal imbalance and infertility. The longer I work in banking, the more that I feel that I'm being made to make a choice: the ability to conceive, or the opportunity to become an MD.
My male colleagues don't have this dilemma. Not only are they able to have children easily (often with women who work outside banking) but their ability to start families is making it even harder for female bankers like me to do the same.
In the past few years several of my male colleagues have started families. They all take paternity leave (usually for around a month, sometimes for longer) and when they come back they often expect to work a bit less. As a case in point, I was recently asked to take on extra project by a colleague who's a new father - he said he needs to spend time with his baby and can't work as much as I do.
I'm stuck in a vicious cycle. The more that my male colleagues have children, the more that I am expected to cover for them and the harder it becomes for me to conceive. You can see why I'm annoyed.
It's time that this dynamic is openly discussed. Plenty of women my age in finance have the same problem. It's not considered appropriate to push-back when all the new fathers (and there are quite a few of them) expect their still-childless female colleagues to work harder than they do. Nor do any of these men take time to really understand the women they work with or to appreciate the sacrifices they are making for their roles.
Men and women are not the same. Women can and will work as hard as men, but doing so often comes at a tangible physical cost. This is why a lot of the senior women in banking are childless. By comparison, most of the men in banking have children. Some women in banking choose not to have children, but for a lot of women it's forced upon them. Men in banking need to be more sensitive to this - and to stop crowing about their children and expecting childless female colleagues to pick up the slack when they start dumping work on them and taking extra time off.
Laura McDonald is the pseudonym of a VP level banker in London
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