Discover your dream Career
For Recruiters

Being an attractive female technologist in a bank is a nightmare

I’m a developer in an investment bank. I’ve worked in finance since I left university five years ago and I don’t plan to work in another industry, but I would like to call out and try to change some of the bad behaviors that are already impacting my career.

I’m an attractive woman. I know it’s not something you’re supposed to admit to, but I’m not going to be falsely modest: men like me. And since I’ve worked in major banks it’s become a big problem.

Banking is a very male environment, and I find that men feel intimated by having a woman they feel attracted to in their teams. I don’t invite this: I don’t dress provocatively, but I am “pretty,” and this is something they struggle to deal with.

I often find that men don’t take my work seriously. I make them feel uncomfortable and they start out by trying to flirt with me – but if I don’t reciprocate they start bullying and patronising me. They don’t like it if they see me talking to other men on the team, even in a work context. Before the pandemic, there were some who would decline meetings because they found it difficult to be alone with me in a room.

I appreciate that this may sound far-fetched, but it has had serious implications for my career. I have been accused of having affairs with managers, and I have made managers resent me because their own (male) boss has appeared to favor me for reasons that were not my fault. I’ve also had male bosses refuse to give me references, or give me bad references when I’ve rejected their advances.

I am forced to conclude that men don’t like having pretty women around. – It stops their brains working, and they want the women to validate them. If they don’t, the men become petty and vindictive: they spread rumors and try to gain control by making sure that your work is dependent upon their approval.

I’m not saying that it’s easier working with women. – They can be just as vindictive out of jealousy, particularly when senior men pay attention to me. Given the preponderance of men in senior roles in banking, the dynamic I’ve described above can’t be ignored. I’ve discovered that the best way to deal with it is to keep my head down and to produce excellent work, and to try to find a boss who is very happily married...

Patricia Poussin is a pseudonym 

Photo by Luiza Braun on Unsplash

eFinancialCareers is running a women in tech and finance virtual careers event on Feb 10 2021. Sign up here. 

Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

AUTHORPatricia Poussin Insider Comment
  • so
    25 January 2022

    I experienced similar things and discovered banking wasn't for me. I now run my own company. Organizations only change if there are consequences for their actions. I wish I had the nerve to sue.

  • pb
    10 February 2021

    I've worked with some very attractive women and how it worked out varied based on how she approached things.

    One 'girl' was in PC support in IT in a bank. She walked around in miniskirts, which wouldn't have been a problem except that she'd be crawling under desks to fix things. Hard to ignore, very distracting.

    Another woman - like most I've worked with, dressed more appropriately. First day or two I would be a bit off in meetings, etc., but after that she was just another coworker. In most cases, the environment also played a part - some banks were pretty bad for women. Within a given bank, it also depended on what department. And on HR. Trading floors were the worst. Back about 20 years ago, vendors would send out 'sales girls' who might or might not know their products, with head traders being quietly informed of special golf weekends or the like with 'bonuses' if they signed up for the service being offered. It was very hard for women to be taken seriously with that sort of thing going on.

    In a lot of banks it is a lot better today. In one oriental bank I worked at, many major departments are managed by women, including some in Investment Banking. But it's not perfect. Attitudes still leave a lot to be desired, and HR departments often still don't take it seriously.

    I'll say to the author - things are better, but YOU need to suck it up and learn to ignore it, and to be sure you are not causing problems. No, it's not just you, but you can help pave the way toward better times for women working in banking.

  • re
    9 February 2021

    I have worked in financial services for 25 years, good at what I do as well as being fit and attractive. I can relate ENTIRELY to this piece - she calls out behavior that most would rather ignore and place the "shame" back on her for being ungrateful or being shallow for calling out some very toxic behavior. I grew up thinking this type of behavior was part of being an adult in the corporate world and was told not to complain and to be thankful for my "problems". What an absolute load of crap. Her point is - the best people to work with are secure in who they are, as well as who she is and what she can bring to the table...while also calling out a very real culture of "acceptable" behavior. Kudos to this young woman, I wish I had her on my team.

  • Sc
    9 February 2021

    What kind of nonsense article is this, join another team with another culture then, please don't generalise

  • ju
    9 February 2021

    She doesn't look that attractive, you probably work with a bunch of desparate nerds.

Sign up to our Newsletter!

Get advice to help you manage and drive your career.

Boost your career

Find thousands of job opportunities by signing up to eFinancialCareers today.
Latest Jobs
Selby Jennings
Selby Jennings
Richmond, United States
State Street Corporation
Quality Assurance Lead
State Street Corporation
Quincy, United States
State Street Corporation
Senior Software Developer - VP
State Street Corporation
Austin, United States
State Street Corporation
Network Security Engineer
State Street Corporation
Boston, United States

Sign up to our Newsletter!

Get advice to help you manage and drive your career.