Friday 8 March 2013

Abchat Weekly Wrap Up: The Trouble for Women

Today is International Women’s Day and the PR Machine is in overdrive. From the newspapers and radio to Twitter and Facebook and even office emails – today women are being told “we can do it!”. But, having perused the IWD website and seen the rather alarming ‘Discover BP’s feminine side’ advert (petroleum based make up products perhaps?!?!), we can’t help thinking that it doesn’t quite add up. Are we supposed to be encouraging women in the workplace? Discouraging domestic and other violence? ‘Bigging up’ successful women? Or ‘D’ – All of the Above? Celebrating women in general seems a bit vague.

Women’s positioning within the media is choppy at best. On one side we’re still being made to feel hard done by on salaries compared to our male counterparts, while on the other we are told since women have moved into public life, there have been huge improvements to businesses, government and further afield. Certainly getting more senior women into the Boardroom is proving tougher than expected, with only a marginal increase in women on the Boards of FTSE 100 companies compared to August 2012, according to Boardwatch. To meet Lord Davies’ target of 25% female Board members by 2015, 86 Board positions need to be filled by women in just two years in the FTSE 100, and 237 positions for the FTSE250.

A successful man is possible to stereotype: good job, comfortable life, perhaps a family. He probably doesn’t concern himself sewing on buttons, cleaning the bathtub or making sure school uniforms fit. A successful woman is harder to define. Is it a ball-busting career woman who doesn’t have time for a family? Is it one whose family and work lives are symbiotic, for example a ‘mommy blogger’ like Heather Armstrong aka Dooce? Or, is it a stay at home mother who has plenty of time (and patience) to play with her kids, bake cakes and is competent with a needle and thread?

Public figures like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kirsty Allsop promote the idea that the modern woman can have it all – a glamorous career, buzzing social life, happy family and a home-cooked supper on the table by 7pm. What they don’t always tell you, is where they hide the housekeeper and the nanny.

Combining the traditional home-maker role with modern empowerment in business and political terms puts a great deal of pressure on women, and the media is sending out the message that to be “successful”, we need to have it all. Anything less feels like a failure. So, on International Women’s Day rather than a general celebration of women, perhaps we should identify a couple of the successes in our own lives and celebrate those things we are doing well. The ironing can wait till tomorrow.

On Tuesday the FTSE 100 closed at its highest level since January 2008. The Dow also reached an all-time high of 14,285 during the day, closing slightly lower at 14,198. This suggests investors are regaining confidence in the world economies - specifically the signs of recovery in the US housing market in recent months and that big businesses are beginning to invest in capital spending and hiring more staff.

George Osborne failed in his attempts to stop a strict EU cap on banker’s bonuses. At a meeting with other EU finance ministers this week Osborne stood isolated in rejecting the proposals, which he believed unfairly targeted the City. Going forward this means bankers will only be able to receive a 1:1 ratio of bonus to salary, or 1:2 if two-thirds of shareholders agree. However Switzerland has also decided to curb executive pay after a referendum vote. This will curb some fears here that the City is becoming uncompetitive compared to other financial centres.

David Cameron announced this week that there would be no change in the government’s management of the economy, following suggestions by Business Secretary Vince Cable that the government could borrow more to kick-start growth. Cameron highlighted the creation of one million extra private sector jobs as a reason to keep the strategy but Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said the UK could not afford “two more years of economic failure”.

Mark Carney, who becomes Governor of the Bank of England on July 1st, is set to be given more powers intended to kick-start the economy. The proposals, which will be outlined in the Chancellor’s budget statement on 20th March, will clarify how the government intends to use monetary policy to get the economy growing again. Mark Carney himself has favoured a debate on monetary framework and would like it to happen before he stars work, saying “I don’t think a prolonged uncertainty about framework is in anybody’s interests”.

Our Life Sciences team has been busy this week, attending One Nucleus BioWednesday’s London gathering and hosting a brilliant table at this year’s PLC Awards. Congratulations to all the winners!

Abchaps attended some great conferences, including BNY Mellon Investment Panel, where the Family Office group talked through asset allocation with a focus on private equity. Siguler Guff pointed out that private equity investment in China and Russia can yield well but a local presence is essential. We also attended Gorkana’s media briefing with Channel 5 News (whose two shows reach 900,000 – 1,000,000 viewers daily, the majority being over 50). Editor Geoff Hill and Programme Editor Laura Wilshaw discussed the importance of pitches being visually engaging, and how they can’t appear to promote products as they are monitored by Ofcom.

We also entertained our friends at Lawrence Graham over a creds swap this week.

Rob Morgan will be joining Charles Stanley next month, as pensions and investment analyst. Rob comes from Hargreaves Lansdown where he was head of VCT research.

Abchum John Collingridge, who covers the City at the Yorkshire Post will be moving to the Press Association toward the end of the month on the City desk.

Stuart Lane & Tim Metcalfe have left their senior positions at Northland Capital Partners to strengthen the senior management team of Zeus Capital as it continues its expansion.

Karen Kelly has left her position as corporate financier at XCap Securities to join the London Stock Exchange to grow the Order Book for Retail Bond (ORB) market amongst issuers, advisors &  investors as well as generally raising awareness of the product.

‘Internet Meme’ – an original and entertaining concept or idea that spreads virally online. The most notable recent example is of course the Harlem Shake…...

As part of Climate Change week, The Scoop at More London is putting on a free screening of No Impact Man tonight powered by 20 volunteers pedalling on bikes.

If you haven’t already sipped cocktails underneath The Queen of Hoxton’s rooftop WigWamBam, the next few weeks are your last chance – they’re also cooking up leg of lamb, pork loin, venison and wild boar sausages… and no horse burgers. The cosiest tipi in Shoreditch!

Following on from the great vibe of our Emerging Markets Party, we like the idea of Ballet Revolucion – a unique fusion of classical ballet and urban hip-hop. Cuban dancers will be performing the production at the Peacock Theatre until 23rd March.

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