Virgin Money chief claims RBS senior worker was ‘expected to sleep with her boss’

Jayne-Anne Ghadia, chief executive, Virgin Money,  Pic: Neil Hanna
Jayne-Anne Ghadia, chief executive, Virgin Money, Pic: Neil Hanna
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The boss of Virgin Money has described how a senior woman at the Royal Bank of Scotland became very upset as she was “expected to sleep with her boss”.

Speaking before the Treasury select committee yesterday, she said: “I remember a very senior woman being very upset one day telling me that she was expected to sleep with her boss.

“That sort of thing of course means there are issues for women progressing through financial services.”

Ms Gadhia, who was managing director of RBS’s mortgage division and then in its consumer finance division between 2001 and 2007 has previously spoken of the “alpha male” culture at the bank and Mr Goodwin’s strongly-focussed drive for growth which helped push the lender to near collapse during the financial crisis.

Ms Gadhia yesterday also backed calls for a “ministerial board” championing the economic benefits of gender diversity.

Her comments follow a widespread backlash against male bosses using their power against female employees after more than 50 women came forward saying they had been abused by Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein.

Last night an RBS spokesman responding to Ms Gadhia’s comments, said: “These allegations are shocking and are clearly unacceptable no matter how historical they may be.

“We actively encourage anyone who has experienced inappropriate behaviour to come forward so we can investigate.”

The spokesman added: “We also have a whistleblower facility where members of staff can talk in confidence.”

Ms Gadhia also said companies must explain why they have not signed a charter targeting female equality in financial services.

Focusing on her own experiences, she said she had encountered challenges while working at organisations outside of Virgin Money.

She said: “I used to work for Norwich Union, now Aviva, and there was an issue back in 1994 where Norwich Union was asked to take its sales force off the road to do some retraining, and I was asked to project manage the sales force back on to the road, which I did.

“I hoped as a youngish person that I would be able to take a more senior role in that sales team subsequently, and I was told by a very senior person at Norwich Union, ‘You have not got the characteristics necessary to lead a sales force’.

“I said, ‘What is that’, and he said, ‘The two things you are missing are a thick skin and a load of bull’.

“It didn’t make me feel it was sexist at the time, but there was definitely an alpha-­maleness about that, which I have never forgotten.”

Jan Gooding, Aviva’s director of inclusion, said: “We have come a long way and learned a lot in the last 20-plus years and Aviva has zero tolerance for any sexist behaviour.

“We are building a more inclusive culture at Aviva and respect for one another is critical to this.”

Ms Gadhia is the government’s Women in Finance champion and has spearheaded a review into gender equality.

As a result, more than 140 financial companies have signed up to the Women in Finance charter, which emerged out of her findings.

The most controversial aspect of the charter has been the decision to link diversity targets to bonuses, Ms Gadhia said.

Her comments came as she reaffirmed that the UK economy would benefit from stronger productivity if more women were in senior positions.

However, she defended the move, saying it provided a clear signal to boards that female equality was a business issue.

Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, who has campaigned against the tax credit ‘rape clause’ said: “It’s clear from Jayne-Anne Gadhia’s evidence at Treasury Select Committee today that the Financial Services sector has a long-standing macho culture which needs to be addressed. The Women in Finance Charter is a step towards addressing this, but it requires more than warm words. I hope the UK Government will consider action on Financial Services firms who fail to ensure women are encouraged and supported at all levels over the course of their careers. Jayne-Anne Gadhia’s suggestion of linking bonuses to diversity on boards would certainly be an interesting way of concentrating minds and incentivising this aim.”

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