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Business Comment

James Moore: Women can succeed on trading floors – but toxic culture has to change, too


Outlook Could an infusion of women on to trading floors be the catalyst to reform the toxic culture that led to the Libor interest rate scandal, not to mention a string of others down the years? It's one of the more intriguing suggestions made by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which wants banks to publish figures and fix any imbalance that is revealed.

There is, firstly, an important point of principle here. If those figures do show an imbalance it would suggest banks are engaging in discrimination in their hiring practices. That's not only short-sighted and stupid from a purely commercial standpoint, it's unconscionable from a moral standpoint and should be corrected.

However, another reason for an imbalance may be that many women simply don't like the idea of working in the culture that exists on trading floors. Actively encouraging more women on to them could simply mean banks finding women who can thrive in that sort of culture; who can be as rotten as the men, or worse. After all, male traders don't necessarily have a monopoly on being bad. Nor do male businessmen. You only need to watch an episode of The Apprentice to see that.

The problem with trading floors is not so much that they are populated by too many men, it is that they are populated by too many of the sort of people who succeed on trading floors as they are set up right now. A culture change is required, and it is far from clear that banking executives, even those who accept the need for one, know how to effect one.

As much as an influx of women, an influx of older people, both men and women, might help, particularly if they were put in positions of power and given licence to nip all the nastiness they see in the bud.

Trading floors need to become more attractive not just to women, but to people who'd normally be aghast at what has become all too normal on them – the sort of people who take one look at the current environment and decide it's not for them, no matter how many millions they could make.