Business

Why can't the Bank of England keep a woman?

Charlotte Hogg Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Charlotte Hogg's departure means there are no women on the Bank of England's high-profile interest-rate setting committee

Despite being an Old Lady, few real senior women seem to find the Bank of England's company congenial.

Friday marked deputy governor and Monetary Policy Committee member Charlotte Hogg's last day there. She's the second woman deputy governor out the door this year. And it's only April.

Another executive director, Jenny Scott, is also leaving and in June, fellow MPC member Kristin Forbes goes.

Fair enough, Ms Hogg's departure is not a sign of mutual antipathy. She resigned for failing to stick to the letter of the rules on disclosing family connections within the industry.

But these departures will leave no women at all on the nine-member MPC - arguably the most public of the Bank of England's faces as it sets interest rates - and only one woman on its three main policymaking committees.

There will be none among the five deputy governor ranks and just four among 16 executive directors.

Bothered

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, says the Bank is simply in line with the rest of the sector.

"It is vital that women are represented at the top of such powerful institutions. But the finance sector is one of the worst for women's representation and the gender pay gap. So the fact that the Bank of England is so male-dominated is unsurprising," she says.

It is true. There is a glaring lack of women at top company level, and although some global corporate giants have women chief executives, there are none in banking.

And it is fair to say the Bank, and its governor, Mark Carney, are bothered. When he joined the Bank in 2013, Mr Carney said the lack of women on the MPC was "striking".

He says he wants to improve diversity to avoid "being mono-culture, secretive and ridden with groupthink".

'Salon and suburb'

The Bank has a target to raise the percentage of women in senior roles from its current 28% to 35% by 2020.

Lower down it has a better ratio, with 44% of posts filled by women.

But, unless you are a frustrated high-flying woman banker blocked from getting that top post on a key panel - why care?

Mark Carney says improving diversity at the Bank "can reduce misperceptions that we are experts making esoteric decisions in an ivory tower for the benefit of others... [and can help] communicate to both the City and the country, the salon and the suburb".

How to fix it though? The Fawcett Society's Sam Smethers says the problem is partly because there aren't enough women in the middle ranks: "Institutions such as this need to address the pipeline of women to head this problem off."

The governor says the Bank's diversity efforts are beginning to bear fruit: "Of the 700 experienced professionals we hired last year, almost half were women."

It is plainly progress in priming that pipeline.

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