Undoubtedly there is an element of truth to that, while the recent revelations in the Financial Times about the President’s Club dinner also led to many ‘Sexism in the City’ headlines, even if the event was attended largely by people working in the commercial property sector rather than in financial services.
Scratch beneath the surface, though, and there is growing evidence that leading financial institutions are trying hard to address issues such as the gender pay gap and to push for gender equality in the workplace.
Yet not only is there a gender pay gap, there is also a gender investing gap, which some leading institutions are now seeking to tackle.
The latest example is Goldman Sachs, which has just set aside $500m that intends to invest in companies that are led, founded or owned by women. The initiative, called Launch With GS, will also provide seed capital for female investment managers who are setting up their own funds.
Stephanie Cohen, chief strategy officer at Goldman, said women-led businesses did not seem to be getting the investment they deserved. She said only 2% of US venture capital in 2017 went to companies with all-women founding teams and just 12% to teams with at least one woman, while fewer than 2% of US private equity firms were female-owned.
She added: “Whether these dismal numbers are due to poor sourcing, lack of supply or outright bias, or some combination thereof, the end result is clear: picture a founder or CEO in your mind, and it’s probably a man. Investing in women entrepreneurs with great ideas will help, but it’s going to take a lot more than just smartly directed dollars.”
Launch With GS is the second initiative Goldman has carried out in this field but the previous one, 10,000 Women – which provided capital and business education to female entrepreneurs in emerging markets – was a philanthropic venture, while this time the bank hopes to make money from its investment.
Ms Cohen added: “Our goal with Launch With GS is to generate strong investment returns. The bottom line is this makes sense for our business – because investing and helping companies grow is our business. We also hope it makes a difference for women who have big ideas but find themselves cut out of the funding ecosystem.”
Goldman Sachs is not the only organisation trying to cut the gender investment gap. The fund manager Legal & General Investment Management recently launched the L&G Future World Gender in Leadership UK Index Fund, known as the ‘GIRL Fund’ for short, which aims to improve gender diversity standards across business by allocating a higher weighting in its fund to companies with more women on its board, its executive team, in its management and in its workforce
There have for a number of years been venture capital firms looking to back female-led start-ups, such as Monarq, a New York-based incubator fund that also puts female entrepreneurs in touch with potential mentors.
This, though, has been a niche area until now. The arrival of players like LGIM and Goldman Sachs, backing their ideas with serious sums of money, suggests backing women-led businesses is about to enter the financial mainstream.