Jon Ashworth: The corridors of power…

Bower, you may recall, has just been awarded £1.4m by an employment tribunal which ruled that Schroders behaved abominably in discriminating against her.

The case served as a reminder of just how rare it is to see City women in the headlines – and then, usually, for all the wrong reasons.

How many women executives can you name? Three, probably: Marjorie Scardino at Pearson, Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard and Barbara Cassani at the airline Go.

To the list one might add Denise Kingsmill, who recently presided over a report calling for greater pay equality between men and women. Readers may recall the feisty Baroness Noakes, aka Sheila Masters of KPMG and the charming Yve Newbold, one-time company secretary at Hanson. But for all the calls over the years for more women to break through to senior positions, they remain thin on the ground.

It is not for a lack of talent. Women often outnumber men in fields such as journalism and the law, let alone accountancy.

When we do read about women in high places, it is usually when things have gone awry. Newspapers could not get enough of the ‘handbags at dawn’ High Court clash between Carol Galley and Wendy Mayall over the Unilever pension fund. Diana Brooks, former chief executive of Sotheby’s, was portrayed as a turncoat for giving evidence against her former boss, Alfred Taubman.

Jennifer Page became caught up with both the Dome and Equitable Life while Dame Helena Shovelton lasted only a short time as National Lottery regulator.

Those unflattering headlines would be enough to put anyone off, which perhaps explains why there are still so few women in the higher ranks of British business. No small number of the City club will be hoping it stays that way.

  • Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times.

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