Financial News has captured the personalities of some of the City’s most senior women in the world of banking and finance over the last 12 months in reporting that unpicked the glacial progress of law firms, to the tough path to breakthrough, which included dressing like the men that dominated the executive tiers of business.
The pandemic is making it harder for women in the financial services sector. In a poll of more than 250, Oliver Wyman found that 72% said Covid-19 has been more negative for women than for men, mainly due to additional responsibilities at home. Some 69% said they observed women returning to the office at a lower rate than men and thought this would adversely impact their career progression.
On International Women’s Day, FN has picked the top interview highlights:
Major law firms tend to recruit an even split of male and female candidates at trainee level but still tend to promote more men than women at partnership level. In the 2020 round, Freshfields promoted four women out of 21, Linklaters promoted eight women out of 30 and Clifford Chance nine women out of 26. While there have been “false starts”, Karen Seward, head of litigation at Allen & Overy, told FN: “There has never been a better time to be a woman in the law.”
Leading a US legal firm from abroad is no mean feat – meet Boies Schiller Flexner’s new deputy chair Natasha Harrison who does just this and candidly talks about how unusual it is for a woman to be doing so, at a firm that counts convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein among its clients.
Insurer RSA’s agreement of a £7.2bn ($9.6bn) bid from two foreign rivals is one of the biggest UK deals to emerge during the Covid-19 crisis. At the side of the British institution is a Goldman Sachs dealmaker, Karen Cook, who has slipped into the shadows in recent years. Cook, a mother of six who has consistently appeared on FN’s 100 Most Influential Women lists over the years, also advised alongside Warshaw on Verizon’s $130bn deal with Vodafone in 2013 and again with Robey Warshaw in 2015 on BG Group’s $70bn sale to Royal Dutch Shell.
Catherine McGuinness, the influential chair of the City of London Corporation’s Policy and Resources Committee, is passionate about the City, and firmly wants the restrictions to be peeled back as quickly as possible so London’s financial district can get back to its buzz. In addition, she’s lobbied hard for a review of listing rules, which could see Spacs opt for London instead of other global financial centres.
The trading floor doesn’t sound like a welcoming place. But that’s the stereotype. Change has started to happen, according to Polar Capital’s head of trading, Alex Jenkins: “Some of the best, most effective people I know in trading are women. They run global teams, have built new and innovative products within long-established companies, and have gained the respect and trust of their peers.”
Citigroup’s CEO Jane Fraser is the first woman to head a major Wall Street bank – but the journey there was far from straightforward, “scary” at times and not very practical from a wardrobe point of view for the global executive.
Prominent economist Dambisa Moyo, once named among the 100 most influential people in the world, considers discrimination and how the past can inform us about the future
Born in Pakistan and raised in the UK, Farmida Bi is no stranger to racism. She welcomed the conversations triggered by the Black Lives Matter protest. “This is really the first time that we are openly talking about race and the experience of different minorities in the City,” she says, dialling into a Zoom call from her home in Wimbledon. “I’m hugely encouraged by it.”
Hedge fund manager Fahmi Quadir made a splash in 2018 when she appeared in the Netflix documentary Dirty Money. In it, she slammed drug company Valeant, which was plagued by an accounting scandal and ended up changing its name and leadership. She’s one of the world’s youngest hedge fund managers, and setting her sights further still.
A male colleague at a bank once told Ann Cairns that his wife was a good mother because she stayed at home – unlike Cairns. The 63-year-old vice-chair of payments company Mastercard outranked him by three levels.
To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Penny Sukhraj