Could more female arts graduates in the City have averted the banking crisis?

It might be quite a good idea to have some artsy women in the City for other reasons than making up some sort of quota

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The Independent Online

You probably haven’t heard of the Sirens Arts Awards, but last week I went to their inaugural ceremony at Newland School for Girls, a community secondary school in Hull for girls which has a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils and a below-average achievement level at GCSE.

Yet the school is nothing if not ambitious, with new buildings and a new head. The Sirens, which are the invention of the school’s director of creative and performing arts, were handed out to more than 100 students for achievement across the arts.

During the evening, teenage girls sang, played musical instruments and danced, displaying talent, discipline, and sheer nerve. Playing the piano in front of an audience is not an easy task.

Watching these gifted young women, I thought of the careless statement made that same day by the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, who said that studying the arts and humanities “limited” young people and restricted their future career path. What they ought to be doing, she said, were Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, because they were the ones which offered a proper future.

As I had been invited to the school to talk about a career in the arts, I felt I should mention this. “Actually,” I said to the students of Newland School, “don’t give up your ambition to work in the arts. They don’t hold you back. Far from it. They open everything up.”

At which point, enter a somewhat unlikely saviour in the form of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Tim Skeet, managing director for financial institutions in its debt capital markets division, has just pointed out that the bank’s recent crisis, in which the Government was obliged to buy up 82 per cent to save the bank from going bust, might well have been averted if only the bank had appointed rather fewer of the geek persuasion and rather more of the artsy persuasion. Ha! Put that in your Stem and smoke it, Ms Morgan.

“We still need the economists and mathematicians,” opined Skeet (a French and German graduate), “but what we need to do is leaven it. We need an input from people who have left-field, blue-sky creative thinking, who can bring the ability to ask the tough questions.”

Numerical brilliance and an ability around a keyboard are not the only skills which need to be brought to the banking table, suggests Skeet, whose company is launching a recruitment drive on university campuses solely to attract students who like hanging out in freezing rehearsal rooms, painting large pictures of nothing in particular, and discussing the sociological importance of Tinchy Stryder in I’m A Celebrity. Arts and humanities students, in other words.

There’s another thing going on here, which is perhaps not quite so obviously headlined. “All the people turning up were economists, mathematicians and scientists of various kinds and there was no diversity,” says Skeet. What he doesn’t say, but which is completely obvious, is that these people are also almost exclusively male. I won’t shout about the fact that it has taken a worldwide recession and near collapse of the global banking system for people to realise that it might be quite a good idea to have some artsy women in the City for other reasons than making up some sort of quota, but because they might actually bring crucial attributes to the running of an enterprise. I’ll just leave it there. On the boardroom table. Darling.

When leaving well alone is not an option

Nobody knows what the age limit for leaving your child alone in your house should be. My children are aged 17, 15, 12 and 10, and although it sounds like they could all be responsible and cope with being alone, they are not.

I very rarely leave them alone altogether, because, if I do, they usually start fighting over who has eaten the last Medley bar or the whereabouts of the remote control, following which I will receive a heart-rending sobbing voice down the phone demanding I return immediately. Once I ignored this and someone pushed someone else down the stairs. Houses, as I never cease to remind them, are dangerous places.

Divide-and-rule is probably the answer. I might leave the 15-year-old and the 10-year-old alone together for an hour, because they both love football and will start playing it or watching it. I might leave the 17-year-old and the 12-year-old watching Come Dine With Me, because they love it. As a rule of thumb, I calculate the time of day (in a 24-hour clock), plus the distance I want to travel (in metres), and the duration of my journey (in minutes). I then multiply the number of children involved, and add it all up. If the result is more than 10,000, I call  the babysitter.