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Harriet Harman: 'If only it had been Lehman Sisters'

Harriet Harman yesterday laid the blame for the financial crisis on the male domination of the top jobs in banks. The deputy Labour leader suggested that the presence of more women in the boardrooms of financial institutions could have eased the impact of the meltdown.

Ms Harman, who is in charge of the day-to-day running of the Government while Gordon Brown is on holiday, was defending her call for one of Labour's top two jobs to be filled by a woman.

Asked whether the turmoil would have been avoided if more women were in senior positions, she referred to the US investment bank whose collapse triggered the crisis. "Somebody did say ... that if it had been Lehman Sisters, rather than Lehman Brothers, then there may not have been as much," she said.

"I do seriously think half the financial services industry is women now," she told GMTV. "Women make up half the workforce of insurance companies and banks. Why shouldn't they have a say on boards as well?"

Just five of the 61 board places in Britain's "big four" banks are occupied by women and the boards of Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are entirely male. One senior banking source admitted: "There is a poor representation of women but that is true in many walks of life."

Ms Harman's comments came a day after she said that men "cannot be left to run things on their own" in the Labour Party. Ms Harman, who is also the minister for Women and Equality, refused to back down from her stance.

Females on the board: The 'big four' banks

0: Number of women who sit on the 15-member board of Barclays Bank

3: Women, alongside the 15 men, who form the board of HSBC Holdings

2: Female directors at Lloyds TSB: one non-executive and one executive from a total of 15

0: Women in director roles at Royal Bank of Scotland from a total board of 10