Men are told yet again that boozing and banter will win them that badge of honor. Those who don’t get onboard risk being dismissed as joyless, woke and prudish by old school leaders who think that anyone who doesn’t bow to their ways is a pearl-clutching bore. In their view, only one sort of masculinity rules the roost.
But the stereotype of men in the City behaving this way relates to a tiny group in reality. Very few City workers sink vodka at breakfast, snort cocaine at lunch or sexually harass their female colleagues. Drinks after work rarely descend into the sorts of nights out that end in a £ 1m fine. Alcohol and strip clubs might have once been a mainstay for the City, but much has changed over the last decade as the finance sector modernises.
Most would agree that the reputation of traders as excessive party animals is outdated.
Nigel Farage, who traded metals at the London Metal Exchange in the 1980s, bemoaned how sterile the City had become in a 2016 Financial Times lunch involving “stag party” levels of alcohol. He complained that being in the City now was like “being a battery chicken”.
Workers in the past could “go back to work, all crimson” after drinking at lunch and “no one cared,” he said.
Some will indeed be nostalgic for a bygone era, many others will be pleased that the boozy boys’ club is over because it means they finally have a chance to step into a room in which they previously felt unwelcome. People should still be encouraged to have fun with their colleagues and enjoy after work drinks, just not to the detriment of others. The problem now is that the behavior of a few has come to define an entire sector.
Talented men and women, particularly those who are younger, will have steered well clear of financial services in recent years because they’ve heard backwards tales like the one at Atrium.
Lloyd’s has tried hard to change its culture after female workers said in 2019 that they felt like they were working in a “meat market” where they were judged on their looks and rated for their “shagability”. However the former boss of Lloyd’s and the only woman ever to run the institution, Dame Inga Beale, has said she fears the insurance market’s toxic culture will not change in her lifetime di lei.
Lloyd’s latest punishment on bullying and “boys’ nights” – its biggest ever penalty – should help speed things up. The end of university-style initiation games and boozy banter in the City will come as a long-awaited relief for men, too.