Should the Bank of England break the mould and appoint a woman as governor?

A piece published on the website of Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them), the political party of which I’m the chairman, in June 2018:

A truly woeful piece by Katherine Griffiths, Banking Editor of The Times, in today’s edition. The lack of balance makes it nothing more than a feminist propaganda piece. Ms Griffiths employs almost every feminist cliche going to justify positive discrimination for women. The underlying theme is always the same. One way or another, men should be ashamed of themselves. They need to hand over top positions to woman on a plate, regardless of there being more competent potential male candidates – probably many more, in most cases – for those jobs.

Being governor of the Bank of England is the top job in the City and among a handful of roles at the pinnacle of the establishment that make a powerful impact on people’s lives. In these times, encompassing the #MeToo movement rejecting sexual harassment and a new focus on putting women in senior roles, wouldn’t it be good if the government picked a woman to be the Bank’s governor when Mark Carney leaves next year? [J4MB: It would be good if the government picked the best PERSON for the post.]

It’s easy to say that gender should play no part and that the only criteria for filling such a powerful role must be picking the best person for the job. Committing from the outset to select a woman reduces the talent pool, the argument goes. [J4MB: “The argument goes”? Give me strength, is this really The Times rather than The Guardian? Committing from the outset to select a woman reduces the talent pool – FACT.] Of course, that has been happening for decades the other way round, when close to zero women have appeared on shortlists for top jobs in the City or government, a matter that wasn’t raised as a concern at the time. [J4MB: Why were close to zero women on those shortlists? Because there were close to zero woman QUALIFIED to be on them. The glass ceiling was always a baseless feminist conspiracy theory.]

Moreover, the pool of women is large. [J4MB: The pool of highly qualified women is NEVER large. Feminist lie.] With the pull of such an eminent job and a search that can cover the world, it is impossible to deny that there would be a good crop of outstanding women who should be considered. [J4MB: And a HUGE crop of outstanding men.] They include Dame Nemat Shafik, director of the London School of Economics and a former deputy governor at the Bank, Baroness Vadera, chairwoman of Santander UK and a former government minister, Sharon White, chief executive of Ofcom and a former senior Treasury official, Clare Lombardelli, chief economic adviser to the chancellor, and Sam Beckett, director-general of EU exit and analysis at the business department.

Clearly, it would be too confining to say that the shortlist for the job, which will be compiled by the Treasury this summer with a decision expected around November, should be women-only. Yet research shows that a 50-50 list gives women their best chance. [J4MB: Why should this be a criterion for shortlist selection?] The Treasury was accused of making a “truly staggering decision” by Rachel Reeves, chairwoman of the Commons business select committee, [J4MB: A dingbat even by female Labour MP standards] when it selected Jonathan Haskel as the new member of the Bank’s monetary policy committee from a shortlist made up of him and four women. [J4MB: The entire process was rigged in an attempt to have a woman appointed, as we reported, but failed.] That triggered its own backlash, with other eminent economists backing Professor Haskel and saying that his work studying the structure of the economy would bring welcome outside thinking to the MPC.

Bringing fresh thinking is not the exclusive domain of women, but they often bring new approaches to establishment bodies. Diane Coyle, Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, said: “There is much less likely to be conformity of thought if you have more diversity.”

Another good reason to pick a woman as governor is to show those at earlier stages of their careers that they can reach highly senior roles. That can extend further, to girls in schools and women at university, to build a pipeline for the future.

And we do not have to wait a decade or so. There are plenty of talented women around, often held back by the way in which recruitment processes are run. Jon Terry, who leads PWC’s financial services HR consulting practice, has done work showing that criteria are often skewed towards characteristics that men present well. [J4MB: Competence, confidence, leadership ability, strong work ethic, dedication to the firm, willingness to take appropriate risks, willingness to accept responsibility for mistakes, those sorts of things.] According to a senior woman in the City, female recruits with gaps on their CVs are regarded as riskier than men who also have missing areas. [J4MB: Unverifiable anecdote. My head hurts.]

There are also practical considerations. Being governor, which carries an eight-year term, is an all-encompassing job that takes up many weekends and long hours. There may be women who would rather not commit to that if they have children (though that could be the case with men, too, of course). [J4MB: The solution is obvious. Offer the job to a mother who’ll do her best to find some time to be Governor of the Bank of England after she’s dealt with the kids for the day.]

Setting out to pick a woman is its own form of sexism. It should not be a hard and fast rule. But there are plenty of good female choices, whose candidacies should be given special consideration in the next few months.

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