Loyalty Is for Wimps and Girls; City Analyst Louise Barton, Who Has Just Lost Her High-Profile Sex Discrimination Case, Reveals for the First Time Why She Refuses to Give Up

Article excerpt


WOMEN have more guts than men in the end," says City analyst Louise Barton.

"They fight much harder.

What happens is that women do their jobs, and they have to do them 20 per cent better than the men to get on, and they think this is enough, and they soldier on, with not such a high profile, and then they get ignored once too often. And then they start fighting like hell; they fight so hard their employers wonder what hit them."

Louise Barton's employers, Investec, have been fending off her attack for a year now, frantically - this is Louise's version - putting together a rearguard strategy to defend themselves against her accusations of sex discrimination in giving her two male colleagues much higher bonuses. And their strategy worked.

Despite what seemed to many commentators like a clear-cut case for Louise, they've won. On Monday, her case was dismissed by the employment tribunal.

But Barton, 52, is still running on a head of rage that has seen her spend pound sterling120,000 on her case and lose her job. She may be "enormously furious, angry, disappointed", but she's still full of fight. It's only round one.

If anyone expects to find Louise Barton curled up in a tear-sodden ball, they reckon without three things. She's Australian, she's a scientist by education and training, and she's succeeded against the odds as a successful woman analyst in the City, a hard-headed career in the most testosterone-driven of environments. She's focused, she's rational and analytical, and she doesn't give in easily. Despite her bruising and the souring of relations with her colleagues, she still likes men and the City life.

"I've grown up in a male environment on a farm in Australia.

I did a science degree where I was one of four women among 60 men. I worked in academia with a lot of male colleagues. The City environment is no different. It's men drinking miles too much and going out and womanising.

The City is a very competitive environment and there's a high level of testosterone, among salesmen in particular. It's a manifestation of men doing business, their massive drive to do things. I've always enjoyed men. You have to meet them on a level, but I think you have to make it clear there's a point beyond which they can't go. I'll have dinner with clients and I know they're going off to a strip club, but I've no desire to join them, though some of the younger women may go."

She readily admits the drawbacks to this policy. The woman who leaves once the men start drinking and womanising may keep her cool and a working relationship with her colleagues, but she misses out on the emotional networking - she isn't one of the boys. "When men go out together and drink there's a natural fraternity. If you're not there you can beaver away, do a good job, and no one notices. It's much easier to crow when you're part of the fraternity."

Crowing, she now realises, is as much part of City success as being clever, well-informed and having a great contacts book. It's something she tells young City women to do - although there were very few in the company she worked for - especially as she thinks she's paid a price for underselling herself.

Barton separated herself out from the boys in July 2001, though things had started to go wrong for her before that. She had been working for 20 years as an analyst with Investec and she loved her job.

In that one sentence there are already two things which worked against her: she has learned, rather late in her career, that you don't stay in the same job for 20 years, and you are dispassionate enough about your job to be ready to quit at any point when you think you're being unfairly treated. Loyalty is for wimps - and girls.

"The most pernicious thing is the treatment of women in terms of pay.

It's a very opaque system and employers can be pretty free with bonuses. …