Equalities Secretary and minister for women Harriet Harman says women must sit on the boards of financial services companies to ensure firms understand and are representative of their customers.
Speaking at a Treasury select committee evidence session on women in the City on Tuesday, Harman said financial services firms that discriminate against women are “artificially blinkered”.
She said: “The financial services industry is delivering to a customer base of individuals and businesses which have got women participating in them as well as men and therefore a men-only leadership of financial services does not understand the female customer base.
“If you are only looking at half the population, then you are only looking at half the brains and half the commitment and we are not being meritocratic because you are artificially blinkered.”
Harman disagreed with comments by JO Hambro deputy chairman Nichola Pease from last week’s evidence session in which Pease said that legislation and protection was turning the hiring of women into “a nightmare”. Harman said: “I do not accept that. I think it is necessary for financial services and all companies to be able to draw on the talents of women and men.”
Anand Associates managing director Bhupinder Anand says: “I have nothing against positive selection but it must go alongside merit. The people on the board are not making the day-to-day decisions about target markets though so I am not sure Harman’s point quite adds up.”