Emma Clark: Women are changing the ground rules

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The Independent Online

Sexism does exist, but for a woman in the City the workplace is increasingly a welcoming place to be. Employers are finally waking up to the talent that women can bring to the City and are gradually replacing the men's club culture.

In particular, demands by working mothers for more flexibility on working hours are being given more sympathetic consideration by some employers.

This makes it possible for a woman to remain in the City when she has children, rather than having to drop out because she can't give undivided commitment to her employer. Employers are doing this partly because of the demands of their shareholders and clients who expect them to behave in this way, and partly out of a recognition of the skills they will haemorrhage if they fail to retain women who become mothers.

It is a gradual process but it is happening; in the nine years I have been in the City I have noticed significant improvements.

It is, then, ironic that just when working conditions are improving the women themselves are walking away from the opportunities that would bring them parity with men.

Having seen a generation try to do it all so that they can have it all, fewer and fewer women are willing to forgo the joys of motherhood purely for the sake of their careers.

Women are not so much getting off the career ladder as redesigning it to fit into their commitment for family life. They are choosing alternative career paths. They still want to work and they want to remain in the City, but those who want to raise a family will now stand back from seeking offers of partnerships and other senior positions. Rather than spend all their waking hours concentrating on work, often at the expense of spending time with their children and partners, they will accept and be happy in less demanding roles.

This means that they can play an equal role in the home as a breadwinner, and remain stimulated and satisfied at work, but without having to surrender themselves to the round-the-clock demands they would face if they accepted partnerships and other senior management posts.

It isn't that the opportunities aren't there for them; it's that they don't necessarily want them. Yes of course there is sexism, but that glass ceiling isn't there if you don't want it to be.

Emma Clark is a senior associate at Fox Solicitors