By Claire West

A new survey from recruitment specialist Poolia shows that many female recruiters in London’s financial heartland admit to sexist attitudes within their companies which can lead to career challenges for their female employees.

Whilst many were positive about prospects for women in their organisations, significant minorities admitted to a different situation. Almost one in five of the senior women recruiters interviewed believes that their company discriminates against women when recruiting for senior management roles - despite their published diversity policies. Almost 30% do not think women have the same opportunities as men, and almost 50% believe women who take their full maternity leave will damage their career. As a result, almost one in four of the female recruiters interviewed think career-oriented women should take a shorter maternity break.

In terms of flexible working, almost 40% of the 50 female City managers and directors surveyed see flexible working and work/life balance as a career-losing option, only taken up by junior people or working mothers with no choice (28%), as sending a signal to management that they are not serious about their careers (5%) and even in a few cases as a one way ticket to redundancy when times get hard (2%).

“It’s clear from the research that many City businesses are providing great opportunities for women,” said Andrew Bath, Poolia’s General Manager, Banking & Financial Services, “But we were really struck by the fact that even when businesses have women at a senior level involved in recruitment, how many still find it difficult to balance the needs of women. However, given the current skills shortages, companies need to work harder to take advantage of the knowledge and experience represented by women working in the City.”

Olivia Yost, Poolia’s Business Development Director, agrees, “I’ve experienced this challenge myself from both sides of the fence, as a director of Poolia but also having taken two career breaks to have children. It can be difficult to strike a balance between the commercial requirements of running a business and offering flexibility in the workplace. Both parties need to be prepared to compromise so the result is mutually beneficial. As companies become increasingly aware of the need to retain key staff adopting a more flexible approach to working patterns can have considerable value in increasing commitment and longevity of service.”