Does the City have a problem with women? You don't have to work there to know the answer. We've seen it in films and on TV and we've all heard the stories. Women at all levels are leered at and undermined They are subjected to a relentless stream of personal comments about their bodies, their private lives and their performance at work. Some are rated on a scale of 10 as to how shaggable they are, or even graded on how many pints a man would have to drink to take them home. At one bank, female traders had photographs of their faces stuck on to the bodies of nude pin-ups. It's ugly, puerile, and stupid. We don't know who added the phrase 'City banker' to the lexicon of rhyming slang, but I'll bet it was a woman.
It's a bit of a surprise, therefore, to discover that inside the City, they see things somewhat differently - and that includes many of the women. The most boorish behaviour is now largely, though not exclusively, confined to the trading floor, where it is dismissed as tiresome but manageable. 'The whole trading floor is a zoo,' explains Cindy Dallas, an ex-trader who recently left the City after 17 years. 'Black humour and verbal abuse - of everyone and pretty much by everyone - is a way of dealing with the pressure. When you're trading, you're gambling with huge sums of somebody else's money. Your decision might make the difference between a pounds 20 million loss or a pounds 50 million gain.
'You've got to make that decision in four seconds flat with everyone around you shouting and screaming. That's pressure. I don't know if you can reasonably expect nice manners under the circumstances. It rarely feels particularly sexist, because everybody comes in for personal abuse, all in the worst possible taste. It can get out of hand, but it's also part of the camaraderie.'