Queen of the City: The Equality Bill as the Bright Spot (Other Than the Weather) Amidst all the Doom and Gloom

Early Morning View of Big BenWe’re basking in a sporadic heat-wave in the Square Mile as I type. It’s OK for the ladies of the City when the sun blazes, but those poor deluded men have to self-strangle with suits and neckties on some of the hottest days of the year. You have to pity them.

Yeah, we used to have Dress Down Fridays, but these days it’s as likely to see a banker in casuals as it is to catch sight of a Dodo – the world’s a much less relaxed place, especially in the financial district. Sartorially, it’s much more Brooks Brothers than Gap, and the more somber, the better, too. As a barometer of the money world’s health and happiness, the more uptight the dressing, the worse things are. So it seems that the City’s mixing its messages: we’re all told that the Worst Is Over, but the attire is sending a different message entirely.

I don’t know about Wall Street, but the City’s still rather gloomy, in spite of the occasionally brilliant weather. Talk about green shoots of recovery seems to have gone a bit quiet, as the banks carry on an orgy of recrimination and finger pointing. More write-downs and glum forecasts adorn the info pages every week.

It’s all getting a bit boring and samey, so, in the Royal Spirit of Keep Calm and Carry On, I’m going to write about something cheerful instead.

In a fabulous display of political sleight-of-hand, Gordo’s Government is desperately flogging the idea of a new parliamentary program offering titbits to the populace: ‘affordable housing’; ‘improving schools and safeguarding children’; ‘digital economy’ and suchlike, all to be funded by us while pretending that we haven’t recently hocked the family silver for the next couple of decades.

However cynical you are about politics, you can’t be any more cynical than the Great British Public at this point. We’ve heard it all before. And we know that if anything does come of it, we’ll have to pay through the nose for it too.

But there’s one fabulous little nugget buried in the about-to-become legislation which got my heart beating a little faster, and brought a broad (if majestic) grin to my face: The Equality Bill.

This bill harnesses all the tatty bits of anti-discrimination law and adds several new measures into one blanket piece of legislation. It will force companies in the UK to publish the difference in salaries they pay to men and women. At a cost of some £117-million (you do the math – the exchange rate’s been so bad for us Brits I don’t have the heart to do it for you) we’re finally going to achieve something meaningful on the gender agenda.

The financial services industry is notorious for having the biggest pay gap between its female and male workers. That could be about to change…

And yes, we know that some firms may fudge it, attempting to dodge the issue with pay scales and ladders and accountability panels and management mumbling about commitment to equality employment. But they’ll have to prove it now. And I think that’s going to leave some rather red faces across the Square Mile.

Which will be much more appealing to my regal self than all that pale flesh broiling nicely whenever the sun shines in the City’s outside spaces at the moment…

Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts, wherever you are…

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