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Why men are to blame for the crunch

Robert Peston | 09:44 UK time, Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I routinely characterise the credit crunch as "men behaving badly" - because it's almost impossible to find a woman to blame.

The reckless chief executives of banks who went on a borrowing and lending binge: all men.

SuitedThe financial engineers who packaged up poisonous subprime debt and mis-sold it as AAA solid gold: they were long of Y chromosomes.

The central bankers and regulators who slept while the dangerous financial party was in full swing: blokes.

The finance ministers who didn't want to recognise that the surge in house prices was perilous, for fear of alienating voters: yup, it's my gender again.

Now there are two ways of looking at the culpability of men for the economic and financial mess we're in.

The conventional explanation is that it's a manifestation of the glass ceiling, of sexism in the City (and in politics, and in the public sector).

Which is to say that women had a lucky escape: they are only innocent of this particular crime against global prosperity because men unfairly elbowed them out of the way in the unseemly race to the top.

And there must be some truth in the notion that we'll only be a fair society when we can heap opprobrium on women for a banking crisis (of course they had their moment in the sun in respect of responsibility for a recession with Margaret Thatcher's economic contraction of almost 30 years ago).

As today's report from the Women and Work Commission shows, there's still considerable discrimination against women at most levels of most workplaces.

But I think there may be a sense (and here I'm on very dangerous territory) in which masculine vices played a dominant role in fomenting the crunch.

And, I suppose, the simplest way of putting this is that I know very few women who measure their success in life by the size of their respective bank balances, whereas I know an astonishing number of men for whom the only thing that matters is "the score", as determined by the heft of their salaries, or bonuses or capital gain.

We've descended into the uncomfortable realm of hack psychology, so we're not going to stay here long.

But I would observe that - in my experience - men are more prone than women to simply run like a train at the goal, and never mind who's flattened along the way.

And the kind of complex mathematical modelling that underpinned so many of the toxic financial products - and of flawed systems for controlling risk - is also a peculiarly male practice. It's the equivalent of an obsession with computer games, or cricket scores or railway timetables: little worlds detached from the real world.

A top male banker (that tautology), the chairman of HSBC, Stephen Green, strays into this dangerous territory in his new book, Good Value. He says:

"If men were to be unchanged by the full participation of women in public life, if women were to participate in public life on the basis of adoption of traditional male modes of interaction, then humankind would have missed a profoundly important opportunity for growth. All the evidence is that something far better is achievable".

His presumption that there will be such full participation by women will be seen by some as naively optimistic.

But if we're looking to prevent a repetition of the kind of financial calamity we've just endured, it mightn't be a bad start to appoint a woman as chief executive of Citigroup (or HSBC), or as chancellor of the exchequer or even (heaven forfend) as governor of the Bank of England (and, by the way, if you have any ideas about how the City of London's male closed shop can be smashed, the Treasury Select Committee is conducting an enquiry and would love to hear from you).


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  • Comment number 1.

    It's not called the old boys club for nothing you know.

  • Comment number 2.

    You say that women are not connected at all with the decisions that led to the credit crunch, but I have yet to meet one that didn't push their husband into looking at a more expensive house, thereby taking a bigger mortgage etc etc!

  • Comment number 3.

    dear points of view
    why oh why oh why!!

    we could save thousands of litres of oxygen, millions of keystrokes, millions of pulped trees and it does not take any experts to work it out, my kids have worked it out and the sooner we or rather the Y chromosomes accept it and move on the better.

    The whole damn mess was caused not by risk models failing, not by the perfect storm, not by people not paying their bills, it was caused by short term greed.

    You yourself have said in this article and other places the chaps like to boast about the size of their packages.

    You can argue all you want about how clever these people are, but clearly they are certifiable.

    So in the context of this article, give all the top jobs to the women, anyone but the people who think they are running it now.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Insightful blogging; though I must state for the record that as a bloke, at least last time I checked, I'm not driven by the materialistic fruits of this world. More by the need to fund my good ladies extensive shopping habits and her need for this seasons shoes and handbags...

  • Comment number 6.

    p.s. better check your credit card statements and bank accounts

  • Comment number 7.

    For years we were told that women were the nurturers and so on, until along came Margaret Hilda Thatcher, nee Roberts. Now it would seem that all the big bankers were men and so they caused the banks to crash.

    This is just silly. What caused the banks to crash was a feeding frenzy caused by a perception that money was in free supply and that the new paradigm had abolished boom and bust. It was believed by both most men and most women in politics, the City and the media.

    It was the madness of crowds. It was our cultural preference for ambition over ability. It was our prevailing mood that diminishes preofessionaliam whilst extolling celebrity. It was hubris.

    Put more simply it was gross stupidity and the stupid are still there in charge of it all. Time for change.

  • Comment number 8.

    It's very unfortunate that only women give birth, as this in some way whilst gloriously exciting fo the female also can take some of the formative work experience years away from them.

    I run own and insurance broker and we pay equally across the board regardless or sex. my only wish is that when there is a problem with the kids the father would take time off to attend to that equally. It just seems to me that the mother is always required to take time off which is totally wrong.

    As far as the city is concerned the club nature will stay that way so long as masonic lodges continue to be so involved with it.

  • Comment number 9.

    Don't watch that Fancy Make Up
    Rubies Diamonds and handbags
    They will take you out for a ride
    and give you that fancy slide
    They will rob you
    They will cheat on you

  • Comment number 10.

    Doesn't France have a female finance minister and isn't she doing a great job, and she speaks english as well!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Ahhh yes, it's all the fault of men.

    Apart from those women who racked up huge credit card debts while the going was seemingly good and who (as much as the men) bought to let with mortgages they can no longer afford. And so on.

    If you look away from the very top, you'll find women do indeed share a portion of the blame.

  • Comment number 12.

    Is there no limit to RP's horizons? Are you angling for your colleague Stephanie to go for Governor (Goveness?) of the renamed the Old Man of Threadneedle Street? The male ethos is not confined to banking but is clearly evident in the free market competition jungle where it is not the elegant logic of the science of the laws of supply and demand that prevails but the ruthless exercise of power and deception for win-lose individual aggrandisement.

  • Comment number 13.

    Robert wrote:

    "But I would observe that - in my experience - men are more prone than women to simply run like a train at the goal, and never mind who's flattened along the way."

    That's well put, Robert. Unfortunately, too many bullies and sociopaths can be found amongst the 'winners' who have climbed up fastest the career ladders in big organisations.
    Ruthlessness, lack of empathy, a grandiose belief in their own competence are character traits not uncommon amongst so called 'leaders'.
    Why? If only this years 'bottom line' (money) counts then whoever serves this very narrowly defined, immediate goal is seen as a successful 'leader'.
    More complex impact assessments, reflecting on long term destructive consequences of actions or the consequences that decisions have for the quality of life of fellow human beings, go out of the window. Isn't that a stupid way to organise life?

  • Comment number 14.

    The only ray of light I can see is that maybe in furure we will not be lead like sheep by a bunch of self serving, self proclaimed experts. Everybody should go and read The Wisdom of Crowds (James Surowiecki) maybe then they will be prepared to stand up openly aginst mis-management of business as they do against government. Then in future maybe people w'ont be prepared to risk their futures on promises of financial sector salesmen with a degree in Bull***t. I certainly didn't and still have all the money they continually told me would be better of invested by them, for them to take their up front commissions, not making a fortune on it but still have it to spend.

    On the point of substituting Men with Women I recently worked in a large business with a Woman CEO and quite frankly she went along with the risk taking exactly the same as her predecessor. Quite frankly now that hopefully the lessons are firmly in place I don't think anybody, male or female, will be looking to gamble too openly.

  • Comment number 15.

    So the gender pay gap can only be addressed by curtailing the ambition of men, and dragging them back to the pay levels of women?

    Funny how these men who rocketed towards their goals with no regard for who they hurt, were apparently organized and sociable enough to put together an old boys club in the first place. You'd think they'd make use of every available resource, regardless of gender.

  • Comment number 16.

    I honestly wish you would keep your opinions to yourself.
    I work within the Construction Industry, where many women head departments, and to be honest, gender makes absolutely no difference in the decision making process.

    There may be some truth in your report as you are one of he Architects of the depth of the recession with your alarmist reporting methods. Perhaps a woman should replace you!

  • Comment number 17.

    I am sure male bankers are the responsible ones for messing up the ecomomy so spectacularly... BUT women (and male consumers) are in there very significantly too. Think of all the endless shopping trips, house makeovers, extensions, conservatories, buying, buying, buying - all made possible with all the credit signed up for. Just because credit was easy to get doesnt mean you should sign on the dotted line. Consumerism is the snake eating its own tail.

  • Comment number 18.

    I vividly recall Margaret Thatcher, as Prime Minister, in interview, banging on the table and insisting that, "The City must regulate itself!". The Labour government did not had the nerve to change this policy, for fear of frightening off foreign investors. As the lack of regulatory framework is a principal cause of the recent banking crisis, here is one female who should share the blame.

  • Comment number 19.

    Because of course, just how much designer wear you can provide your wife with isn't just another measure on your benchmark of earning clout. Silly me, it was all those greedy handbag and high-heel- seeking women that, Lady MacB style, drove their husbands to sell highly leveraged derivative products at vastly over-inflated prices all along!

  • Comment number 20.

    This blog has no basis in fact and is a typical populist peston piece. Women contributed at all levels from credit cards to property speculation, buy to let etc etc. Investment Banks are possibly the most diverse organsiations in the uk with front office bankers coming from all cultures both male and female.
    The credit crunch is a result of the excesses of the last few years and a necessary adjustment which will in time correct itself. No one group or individual is to blame and it is surely time for even peston to look forward and stop attempting to talk the world into further decline.

  • Comment number 21.

    If observations and analysis are made on genders, then how about age, class, culture, location, race and other possible factors (education backgrounds, origin)?

  • Comment number 22.

    well this is an old story...remember this stuff coming out a year ago...all that male macho stuff....something to do with a testosterone fuelled feeding frenzy of blind competition.
    Well, perhaps there's something in this, but of course the other side of this is that had men not been forging ahead with a competitive streak and dynamism, it is unlikely we would have created as much wealth as we have perhaps ??

  • Comment number 23.

    Sexist BBC claptrap. Go through this article and substitute the word "Man" for "Jew" and you will see something that looks remarkably similar to a Nazi anti-semitic rant.
    Shameful nonsense.

  • Comment number 24.

    Oh Robert, Robert, Robert! Men have been the hunter gatherers of the species for millions of years. Women by default have always herded to the most successful hunter gatherers, and because men like sex, with the best looking women, we work hard to reach the top of the pile. If good looking women were to shun their age old instinct and settle for ordinary men then the drive to succeed would thus be removed and the world would be a happier place unless you're an ugly rich man in which case it wouldn't be so good. But since I'm not one of them who cares!

  • Comment number 25.

    If you want to address a real issue (the gender pay divide) then address it properly. The above is just tabloid style rubbish (and an excuse to bring banks into it) - also isn't this another shameless plug of Green's book? Aren't there rules about advertising on the BBC?

  • Comment number 26.

    I prefer to treat people as individuals rather than gender. So the people who get to the top usually are quite selfish and driven to success (or greed). So what should be said is that it is the selfish/greedy/unemotional people who are running the banks.

    If we are going down the gender route though, it has to be said that the credit crunch was also brought about by people not being able to pay their loans which of course is both genders. But yet again, it's down to individuals.

  • Comment number 27.

    There are plenty of female bank managers around these days. And both businesses and individuals are discovering that these ladies can be every bit as effective as their male colleagues when it comes to cutting overdraft facilities with only a few day's notice, or refusing reasonable credit requests from long-standing customers, or charging rip-off arrangement fees and extortionate rates of interest.
    Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 28.

    What a pointless article. Not really sure whether your intention was criticise "male" behavioural tendencies or to have a pop at gender stereotypes per se. All I really got from this article was that you've pointed out some outdated ideas about how men/women are/were perceived. If I were a woman I guess I would be a bit miffed that you had assumed on little or no evidence that I would be less likely to be reckless and aggressive as my male equivolent. Good effort though.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    I would point out that in the real world, the vast majority of primary teachers are women, (and men in this valuable profession are looked at sideways), that most nurses and midwives are women - and so on; While at the same time most engineers are men, most financiers men, and so on. For all the efforts of the equality revolution, biologically enforced preferences and skills trump legislation. I'm not saying that there isn't sexism or a pay gap - I've seen it and been a victim - just that some jobs attract certain types - and sometimes that type is gender.

    I would actually theorise that risk taking on this kind of scale is a male characteristic - and if you try to dilute or prevent it, you will dilute and prevent the rewards that risk brings as well. So we get a recession sometimes - They are inevitable in capitalism - it's merely the trigger that changes. I don't think you can prevent the next recession any more than you can get men to wear lipstick.

  • Comment number 31.

    Currently to get to the top women must behave like men.

    Even if softer skilled women are part of the workforce they mostly have to go home to family responsibilities on a Friday night rather than join the boys club down at the pub. It is difficult to be part of the group.

    For fun I sat in on a High Court trial this summer when sightseeing around London. During the lunch recess the female barrister had been the one working and researching to provide information to move the trial forward. I got the impression the rest of the court had enjoyed a relaxed and lengthy lunch.

    It seems easier to leave them to it and concentrate on our homes and children.

    Also don't forget that many men reaching for huge salaries and bonuses have wives at home spending it as quickly as they can earn it, or, are aiming at attracting the latest trophy model wife.

    You could also say that all wars are started and fought by men.

  • Comment number 32.

    1 well not a lot of comments - always thoought most contributors were male..

    2 "buy to let" appears to assume "borrow to let". I paid (mostly) outright and so far am very happy with the returns, unlike the money I "invested" in the "always does best over the long term" (fib) stockmarket

  • Comment number 33.

    #7 Quite brilliant, and absolutely right.

    As to change, however, "nothing doing". European elections, a by-election, and still the people who alone could bring about the change are choosing tweedle dum or tweedle dee. While that is going on change can never happen.

  • Comment number 34.

    We definately need more women in banks and business...women who don't try to act like men... and men who behave so that women do not to have to act like men.

  • Comment number 35.

    If the behaviour of men is so easily characterised, and if male characteristics create a liability for banking crisis, then, since women find men so predictable, the banking crisis should have been foreseen - by women.

  • Comment number 36.

    "As today's report from the Women and Work Commission shows, there's still considerable discrimination against women at most levels of most workplaces."


    Sorry, where exactly does it say that? I read the linked article and all I see are averages across the genders. What I don't see is any analysis of the pay of men and women in similar roles with similar levels of experience. If in that situation there is a statistically significant pay gap then we can call it discrimination.

    To look at bland, overarching figures across society and claim that they prove discrimination against women is worse than useless. Perhaps you ought to talk to your colleague Mr. Easton before you interpret stats of this nature.

  • Comment number 37.

    I have heard this argument dozens of times over the last 18 months. And I whole-heartedly disagree with it. The 'credit crunch' has nothing to do with male dominance of the boardroom - it has everything to do with with the members of those boardrooms taking stupid risks, and the failure of the regulators to monitor them properly.

    To imply that this is because of male prevalence suggests that men, by definition, are aggressive, adversarial, imbecilic risk-takers, and that such negative personality traits cannot possibly apply to women. I find such implicit discrimination extremely offensive.

    I am not trying to defend the actions of the big banks - indeed, my personal opinion is that they should be stripped of their personal wealth in order to recompense the taxpayer for their misdemeanours. However, it is dangerous to blame their actions on their gender. It has nothing to do with the fact that they are male. It has everything to do with the fact that they're greedy. And women can be just as greedy as men.

  • Comment number 38.

    I would be sorry if this blog degenerated completely (as some have already attempted by their posts) into a silly rant about which sex is greedier or more spend-thrift. I have worked in the City for 20 years and have seen some pretty excessive macho behaviour in that time. For the men, there's the lap dancing culture and the drinking games and the porn circles as well as the pathetic oneupmanship about watches, cars and other toys at bonus time. You know what they say: the game is to collect as many toys as possible and the one who has the most toys when he dies, wins. Oddly, men don't seem to trophyise their homes, but to hide their desire for a bigger home behind their wife's demand for one. I think this is false. On the female side, there is silly pressure over clothing and accessories and looks. It demeans both sexes.
    But what I think Robert was really talking about is not the materialism of the City which can affect both sexes equally but differently, but about the competitiveness and aggression genes which are more dominant in men. Whereas women have to curtail career ambition for the more rounded ambition of decent family life, married life as well as work balance, men are still pressurised (and pressurise themselves) into pinnacle style ambition which is exclusive and self-centred. Shared credit for good work and shared culpability for poor work are rare - stars and scapegoats are found. In compromising careers for family life, many women have often learned the skill of compromise at work, of consensus and prudent management as opposed to all out victory. What can we do to make compromise, team agreement and co-operation and prudence goals to aspire to rather than carrying the humdrum semi-failure connotation that they often do, especially for men?
    It would be nice to see the BBC suppporting some good business management programmes rather than the crass bullying and soundbite stuff that goes on in the Dragon's Den and the Apprentice. If viewers see aggressive role-models talking down to people, whether on television or real life, they are going to behave that way in the belief that it will progress them.

  • Comment number 39.

    The most interesting and researchable phenomena brought to light by recent events is the role of SOCIOPATHY (both genders) and its central idea of 'winning at all costs' in the management of all these finacial organizations.

    Sociopathy is deeply rooted in the western psyche and probably linked to St Paul's version of Christianity in which he repeatedly and constantly avers that he 'runs his race to win' and 'does not lie' - which implies that the accusation of lying was a real problem for him. His method of combating these accusations was to constantly reverse them, which is what sociopaths do, thinking of themselves as always correct and wrongly persecuted, and their victims as deserving of failure and damnation.

  • Comment number 40.

    I believe this is the dumbest article you've ever written Peston.

    One of the key players in establishing CDOs based on mortgage debt was a woman. She and her colleagues may have pulled out of the practice early on, correctly concluding that they simply could not calculate the risks and therefore did not want exposure. But it is crazy to suggest that gender alone is responsible for the credit crunch and that it would have been avoided if more women had been involved.

    That most of the players are men reflects the regrettable fact the too few women make it to senior positions. This needs to change. But it is simplistic in the extreme to suggest it will automatically lead to better risk management and the prevention financial bubbles.

    And if you really believe this.. "but I would observe that - in my experience - men are more prone than women to simply run like a train at the goal, and never mind who's flattened along the way"... I suggest a trip to a busy TK Maxx store might serve as an education.

    How many women bought houses they couldn't afford and ran up irresponsible levels of credit card debt? Is there any evidence they are less prone to do this than men? I doubt it. And I don't understand, then, how you can argue that women at a more senior level would have done that much to change the course of recent history.

  • Comment number 41.

    Angela Knight is the Chief Executive of the British Bankers' Association.

  • Comment number 42.

    The problem is neither male nor female, but it's origin in the UK is directly traceable back to Margaret Thather's era. It was then that the traditional values (which dictated that "status" in society could be achieved in many ways) were replaced by the one single value which dictates that it is only success measured in monetary terms which "means" anything. If society (sorry Mrs. T. , but there IS such a thing as society) were to once again recognise that there are many other ways of "achieving", then this quite possibly wouldn't have happened, not to mention the fact that people would in general be a lot happier......

  • Comment number 43.

    Women are entirely capable of competing with men in commerce.
    New subject:

    Recently the bank spokespeople have been whining that they don't have enough "reserves" to lend at reasonable low rates to decent people with low credit-default risk. But they will lend at high rates. Credit card rates are even higher. I thought that banks were able to make loans using "fractional reserves" Has the UK govt changed the rules?

  • Comment number 44.

    In my first job out of uni I tried to explain to my manager that I found bonuses demotivating because they implied I was not willing and able to do the work I was already being paid for - a pay rise would be a better way of compensating me for my excellent work (it didn't help that the bonus was £500 and that would be taxed at 40%, I seriously thought it was a slap in the face). He refused so I quit thinking that despite my excellent reviews if they didn't want to pay me more than my extremely basic salary then it must be because I wasn't worth it, they didn't want to tell me I was really naff at my job. Then all hell broke loose and i was repeatedly accused of being 'all about the money' and other wonderful attempts at bullying that I suspect had worked on women in the past - I should imagine that refusing to give women payrises in the past had also worked.

    Sorry, i'm stepping through a lot of issues here... Point 1) A lot of managers refuse to believe that bonuses don't work for everyone, or at least traditional monetary bonuses. When I raised this point personally then backed it up with research my managers flatly refused to believe me. This point alienates a lot of women in particular.
    Point 2) You don't ask you don't get. In capitalist societies businesses are going to save wherever they can, if you don't ask for a payrise you don't get one. Women frequently try to work hard to win recognition from a superior in order to earn a payrise that won't be forthcoming unless they ask which they are a) unlikely to do and b) from my own experience even if they ask will be under significantly more pressure to take a lower offer than a male colleague simply because the manager knows this will work.
    Point 3) An IBM open day lady once told me that IBM had done some research and found that men had to be sure they could do 20% of a job advert before applying for it, women had to be sure they could do 80% (although most of my female friends seem to operate off 100%)... This made a huge impact on me and from anecdotally asking round friends this seems to be largely true.

    These points mean that women won't apply for the top jobs in the first place, the few who get them will be paid significantly less than their male colleagues doing the same work and the bonus culture will sap their motivation until they leave.

    Where do we start to fix this Mr. Peston? I know the men I am friends with don't want this for their wives/girlfriends/sisters/mothers too.


  • Comment number 45.

    Wasn't one of the stories of the credit crunch that of a female speculator who'd bought more than 20 buy to let properties, and had then lost it all.

    Women can be just as stupid as men.

    p.s. why haven't the people who repackaged sub prime debts as AAAA rated investments been gaoled?

  • Comment number 46.

    Pointless article. You might as well publish a blog about how nearly all murderers are men, under the title "Men are murderers".

  • Comment number 47.

    If many bankers are obsessed by "the score", as you put it, can't we control the markets by capping the amount of assets any one person can hold? This could shift personal aspirations from earning money for personal gain, to earning money for wider social gain. Don't know if it would shift more women into the upper echelons of the financial systems, though.
    Cap it to, say, 50 times the average cost of 10 years of living in the UK.
    It's an idea I've had recently, but I'm sure someone must have thought about it before. It is apparent to me that asset capping could do a number of other things:
    Enforce a realistic trickle-down, reduce the poor-rich gap, increase charitable donations, rein-in the property markets, enable much wider property ownership, increase average wages...
    I Look forward to hearing yours and anyone elses views on this.

  • Comment number 48.

    Why men are to blame for spotting the potential crisis:

    The paper by Bezemer lists 11 economists / commentators who saw the crisis coming. All of them were men. Weird huh?

    Best stay out of the hack psychology and dig a bit deeper into why the "Flow-of-fund or accounting" approach is not being listened to by establishment economists or politicians.

  • Comment number 49.

    This argument simply propagates the notion of women as the fairer sex, with all of the weight of cultural stereotype that it implies. A similar report was issued by the World Bank in 1999 entitled "Are Women Really the Fairer Sex? Corruption and Women in Government" which argued that women in government restrained endemic (read masculine) corruption.
    That top bankers are male can be persuasively argued as having been the product of a culture of sexism that certainly existed, and in many cases still exists, within the city of London and other financial centres. The notion that male bloody-mindedness and unchecked ambition is the sole cause of this is unjustified conjecture, but this is less offensive than the notion that a women in the same role would somehow rise above the corporate model through her innate feminine qualities. Women deserve their place in the workplace not because they are the great moderators of man's follies but because they are equally capable of the successes and failures of men.
    As D.H. Lawrence wrote, and I urge Mr Peston to take note, The cruelest thing a man can do to a woman is to portray her as perfection.

  • Comment number 50.

    I fear that there is a step missing here because the culture is so male dominated that even when women get into the boardroom, they are the women that think like men.

    1 of 2 things will need to happen: Either we will need a decade of Thatcher's in there so the men in the room can get used to seeing overly pointy shoes and handbags every day, after which a more feminine side can assert itself. Or we can wait another 10-15 years for my generation to get into the boardroom, I'm 30 and it doesn't even occur to me to think in gender stereotypes.

  • Comment number 51.

    Mr Preston totally understates the influence of womankind on this financial disaster. He has either forgotten or is too young to remember that before 3rd May 1979 Britain was a completely different society with strong values of responsibility, accountability and community. It was a woman who was the architect of the culture that created this crisis. It took 30 years to happen, but as predicted by the more astute thinkers at the time, it happened no less. The banking crisis was caused by Thatcherism, a woman's ideology based on the lethal cocktail of individuality, greed, irresponsible privatisation, free marketeering and government non interventionism, that was continued by successive (male) governments (red and blue), encouraging a generation of morally bankrupt (male) financiers to behave in an odiously irresponsible manner flawed by the 'Im all right jack' attitude, the trademark of Thatcherist thinking. Problem was that there has not been a politician (male or female) on the scene since Thatcher with the charisma, drive or even the will to change the economic model, as she did for the benefit of society. We have reaped what we sowed.

  • Comment number 52.

    Women in the general public spending more than they could afford perhaps?
    The woman off location location location encouraging the housing boom?
    Only half the blame for the credit crunch should be directed at the banks who LET it happen.
    The public recklessly spending and fuelling the housing boom is as much to blame as the bankers. But that doesn't make quite so good headlines, and we couldn't possibly admit it, so lets blame everyone else instead.

    On an aside, I was interested by the study a few weeks ago about the incomes of the parents going into various professions. On average those going into Investment banking had parents earning just slightly over the national average. By comparison those entering the legal, accountancy, and others had parents earning much more.
    It seems that investment banking is remarkably diversified inters of backgrounds compared to many other professions.

  • Comment number 53.

    a nice addition from the himalayan sized mountain of media coverage produced over the last year or so into how the current financial crisis befell us, but it's not about men and women - it's about Goldman Sachs. Pure and Simple. Take a look at the CVs of the people in Government who orchestrated the deregulation of certain markets in America, and organised the bailout of selected companies when it all wet pear-shaped, and you'll find Goldman Sachs on every single one. Spend five minutes looking into how Goldman Sachs went from a company whose core philosohopy was "longterm greedy", after their disastrous foray into Wall St sepculation in the late 20s nearly brought them down. A change in this belief seems to have come about when Clinton came to power and appointed Robert Rubin as Treasury Secretary (Rubin being an ex Co-Chairman of, you guessed it, Goldman). Rubin strongly believed in deregulated markets, and essentially created the evironment that allowed banks particularly goldman, to cause the dot com bubble and crash, the current toxic debt disaster, the oil price scandal (the oil supply will one day dry up, but at the moment, and for the last couple of years, short term supply has been greater than ever and demand is decreasing - this should mean lower prices, but not when there are huge profits to be made from a recent change in the regulations governing its trading...) and now have a look into Carbon Credits - the next playground of the likes of Goldman, a company who paid $14 million tax in the US in 2008. $14 million. The same company paid out $4.7 billion in bonuses and compensation in the FIRST QUARTER OF THIS YEAR. $14 million in tax. that's the real problem.

  • Comment number 54.

    Robert Peston forgets (or doesn't know) that:

    Women drive the mortgage market

    Female choices created mens as they are (according to the best informed female (& Male) biologists)

    Female desire to avoid (open) conflict has resulted in high street banks populated by women where choices are made by computers not people.

    Obviously it is bad manners to make such observations but as we are driven further toward crisis by politicians & journalists with their heads in the sand it would help if the Biological & Psychological truths of the human sucess story began to be available for discussion in polite company.

    Incidentally It is women who also drive the 'divorce based' housing & crisis management market in banking & members of the judiciary who cry crocodile tears when they out to be sent back to school in the sciences rather than the humanities before bein allowed to preside over further human tragedy

  • Comment number 55.

    I have come to a similar conclusion myself though its a bit depressing as I am a man. Books such as Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps leave me with the view that evolution has created in females a set of physical and mental attributes that are better suited to the modern workplace than those of males. Because men currently rule the city and make the rules, women cant get the bridgehead they need to succeed. So, with regret (because I hate any kind of discrimination) a period of positive discrimination in favour of women is needed to get the critical mass to change behaviours. And everyone would benefit.

  • Comment number 56.

    "We've descended into the uncomfortable realm of hack psychology, so we're not going to stay here long."

    Leaving aside psychology of any kind, Ivan Illich had an interesting take on gender difference and economics. He suggested in Gender (c 1980) that gender (male/female) was different from physiological sex (man/woman). In our modern economy, occupations are increasingly gender-free i.e. able to be equally as well performed by a man or a woman. Where they do exhibit sex-bias, i.e. men are top bankers and civil servants, women are housewives, domestic cleaners and nurses, it is for social/political reasons rather than psychological.

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

    And when the naughty male bankers want to explain their bad behaviour on Radio 4 they send their Mum, Angela Knight to give a more balanced account of their antics.

  • Comment number 59.

    I agree with the sentiment, however as large public organisations like the BBC seem able to have few women in senior positions and willing to push out older women from public roles, private sector companies are unlikely to feel any pressure to redress the gender inbalance in their own organisations.

  • Comment number 60.

    Men are probably obsessed by the size of their salaries because rich successful men tend to attract and keep the most desirable women....and it seems to work, so maybe women are as gullible as men!

  • Comment number 61.

    Why not blame the mothers of the bankers? - if you are going to start apportioning gender based blame.

  • Comment number 62.

    Do I not remember that it was a lady that came up with this idea of toxic debt handling ? I´m sure I remember something about it in the Times.

    Anyway, why be so reverse misogynistic in your analysis; ALL bankers and finance "experts" are to blame if we´re going to make sweeping geenralisations!

  • Comment number 63.

    I seem to remember a study that looked at stock market bubbles, and which traders made the most on the way up, and lost the most of the way down - this was strongly correlated with high testosterone levels.

  • Comment number 64.

    erm why was my post moderated there was nothing in it to break any posting rules , was in reply to Robert's post, and had nothing controversial in it , not only that I have had no email to explain why

    the crux of my reply was despite everything this was all caused by greed ,

  • Comment number 65.

    I thought WAG culture was to blame?

  • Comment number 66.


    OK you win. I now give up and will leave this blog for the last time. Yet another pointless article that says nothing about business. I find is sad that the BBC can not find soemone who will treat us with respect and deliver interesting and relevant articles. Goodbye.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    read all these comments - can't believe how many up-tight men there are out're obviously not getting enough, and with an attitude like that it's no wonder! I'm a banker and a mother. From what I've seen most women who succeed (whether childless or not)in banking emulate a very male style of thinking/working. Only when women can be themselves can we say that glass ceilings have been smashed.

  • Comment number 69.

    Your assumption is that women are less likely to be greedy, ruthless and stupid, and that seems reasonable

  • Comment number 70.

    "all culpable bankers are male"

    lets think about another

    "all BBC journalists are socialists". Discuss.

    PS. All journalists with family links to the Labour party, please make your disclosures, Robert.

  • Comment number 71.

    I seem to remember the BBC being renowned for balanced factual reporting, with an addition of intellectual analysis. Waht happened there then?
    Suppose that is the fault of the bankers?
    Anyway Labour have been in power for 12 years now, what with the fanfare of Blairs Babes, where has the equality policies been succesfully implemented then?
    Oh I forgot, they just talk about doing things as opposed to doing things.
    I had better get off this blog quick. Before GB blames me for this Global Recession, that started in America. Even though the UK is the best based country for Blah, Blah, Blah. Insert whatever the topic of the day is!

  • Comment number 72.

    There is a great gag by American comedian Rita Rudner she quipped 'If women ruled the world, there would be no wars, we would just visit each others houses and criticize each others taste in curtains'... I can't see women tolerating food mountains on one side of the world and starving children on the other.. Definitely more top jobs for women...

  • Comment number 73.

    66 WindChrisLeeds
    Don't blame you, think I will join you.

  • Comment number 74.

    No women in the City who lost stacks of money. Bramdean would like to hear from you.

    I think you're looking for the women's vote.

  • Comment number 75.

    No Robert, the 'good and the great' cannot shift the blame from themselves to a whole gender. It is ridiculous and a sign of their desperation to shift the blame so as to escape the proper punishment.

    Blame the regulators and the bankers and the politicians and the civil servants NOT men - you article is about as sensible as blaming green socks or short hair.

    Get a grip and blame Mervyn King, Hector Sants, the whole MPC (and that included some women), Nick Macpherson and his predecessor Gus O'Donnell as well as the heads of then Banks and their auditors and the vast majority of economists, but don't blame 'men'!

    The list of people I have named about should be sacked - not all men!

  • Comment number 76.

    I heard a relevant comment and on the BBC actually, so I am only quoting the BBC here:

    'A woman's work is never done. Maybe that's why they're paid less?'


  • Comment number 77.

    If we are talking hack psychology, then I recommend considering the behaviour of other primates.

    In primate troops the dominant individual (usually/invariably male) tends to be the biggest, meanest, and politically shrewdest.

    Human organizations tend to be be led by individuals (mostly male) with similar characteristics, whose behaviour often verges on the psychopathic. (According to Wikipedia: "The psychopath is defined by an uninhibited gratification in criminal, sexual, or aggressive impulses and the inability to learn from past mistakes ... Individuals with this disorder gain satisfaction through their antisocial behavior and lack remorse for their actions".)

    But (continuing in Preston style) here is the paradox (technically speaking, a question rather than a paradox). Can humans overcome the psychological baggage of evolution and organize themselves in a more rational way? Is it possible to be a tender, caring, concerned, cautious, socially-aware individual and to run a major organization? If not, then it seems that we are doomed to further financial bubbles, wars, and even to self annihilation. (A suitably profound and gloomy Pestonian conclusion, worthy of the greatest of pessimists, Arthur Schopenhauer.)

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    Ok so now we are back to the "Glass-Ceiling" and underpaid women ... lets see how we can link it to the current financial situation.

    The "Glass-Ceiling" and "underpaid women" are a fallacy. Women are rewarded as equally as men. If either sex takes prolonged time out of work, is not seen to "pull their weight" then they are going to have rewards withheld.

    I am a female, working in I.T and my salary is comparative to my colleagues (male and female). I am also a mum, but was sensible enough to understand that the only way I would have a competitive professional role and still be a mother was to have my child in my early 20s, not spend a ridiculous amount of time on maternity leave and not expect anyone else to do my job for me when I do have to take time off.

    Ergo, I am well rewarded, well skilled and much appreciated in my workplace.

  • Comment number 80.

    ...or was it because I mentioned glass ceilings and short skirts in the same sentance?

  • Comment number 81.

    It is rumoured that Margaret Thatcher was woman, she deregulated the financial institutions. She was therefore the chief architect of the whole financial mess. Fortunately she did not go as far as Reagan and deregulate the building societies. However, many building societies jumped on the deregulation bandwagon by converting to banks. Those converted building societies then became the biggest exploiters of the situation, now the tax payers are bailing them out. To prevent a repeat, securitisation must be made a criminal activity.

  • Comment number 82.

    Bah, all the evidence so far is that when women get power they abuse it every bit as much as men.

    This is not in any way a reason to stop women getting power or money, but a warning to people to lower their expectations of the world and the humans within it. We are all avaricious, short-sighted and flawed.

    The most insightful comment here so far is number 39 - in order to climb to the top in the business world you have to basically be a sociopath, and to dedicate your life to it. Very few men or women have those traits and are willing to do that.

  • Comment number 83.

    This is a very naive post and I entirely agree with the quote from Stephen Green's book. The issue is not about just encouraging more women into these areas per sei, if this is done by them merely morphing into the male mindset. If however, feminine values are elevated and recognised for the value and contribution of sensitivty, compassion and empathy then I'm all for it.

    Sadly, all that equalities legislation has done is push for women and ethnic minorities to be accepted on the basis they can become like white, middle-class, male, intellectuals, and in the process sacrifice their own unique specialness. This is not equality but homogeneity and what a complete disaster it is.

  • Comment number 84.

    A pointless and facile article that has also unleashed a whole lot of bile about how women are actually to blame for everything because they apparently buy lots of shoes on credit. Sorry to disappoint but not all us women are materialistic trophy wives with no interests beyond shopping just as most men aren't money hungry testosterone addled parasites. Such gross generalisations are unworthy of the BBC's supposedly intelligent commentator on business. Think I'll join some of the other posters in giving future articles a miss.

  • Comment number 85.

    Yes, men exploited the deregulated financial system. Men also run the buffalo stampede called the stock exchange. Have you noticed that when the stock exchange is shut, share prices remain steady. The obvious remedy for boom and bust based on rumour and panic is to close down all stock exchanges permanently. Shares will then be bought and sold by independent stockbrokers that are less prone to the herd instinct.

  • Comment number 86.

    As a women with many years city experience, I have worked alongside Rob Peston and also in the same firm as Stephen and can confirm that both are honest and honourable gentlemen and its great that they feel able to stand up and speak for women - truthfully and based on experience. There is a glass ceiling, it has been my experience...both in business and in the church (Stephen is ordained a CofE Deacon). We need more people like Robert and Stephen to speak out. Thank you to them both.

  • Comment number 87.

    So Zoe Cruz being fired from Morgan Stanley over sub-prime losses was nothing to do with the crisis then Robert? Whilst the industry is clearly dominated by men, if you look properly at the evidence it is clear that men were not the only blame carriers in this crisis.

  • Comment number 88.

    "And the kind of complex mathematical modelling that underpinned so many of the toxic financial products - and of flawed systems for controlling risk - is also a peculiarly male practice. It's the equivalent of an obsession with computer games, or cricket scores or railway timetables: little worlds detached from the real world."

    You make this sound like a negative for men, but maybe the fact that women are not prepared to dedicate themselves to a demanding field of study is negative for them.

    Why is that at an avante guard Jazz concert the audience is predominantly male, but at a middle-of-the-road pop concert the audence is predominantly female? There's no economic imperative driving choices such as this.

  • Comment number 89.

    "As today's report from the Women and Work Commission shows, there's still considerable discrimination against women at most levels of most workplaces."

    Does it really show that? It shows that, on average, men are paid more than women, which is really not the same thing. For example, plumbers get paid considerably more than nurses. Far more women choose to be nurses than choose to be plumbers. That's their choice.

    Whatever the reasons, there are still plenty of jobs that women mostly don't want to do. Is there any point trying to change that with legislation? I doubt it.

  • Comment number 90.

    "We've descended into the uncomfortable realm of hack psychology, so we're not going to stay here long."

    You've been there for as long as I can remember - why the change of heart now?

    Is there any chance you could actually give over your column inches to someone with something useful and/or relevant to say? Your scaremongering and rhetoric-riddled, self-aggrandising entries have irritated me for a while, and now it seems that you have actually driven me to sign up to comment JUST to let you know how little I think about you and your comments.

    I have my own blog. It's purpose is to inform, education and amuse - as should be the purpose of any blog. Yours is purely a device for disseminating misinformation, name-dropping and making wild unfounded speculative statements regarding issues you clearly don't fully understand.

    Apologies if that sounds a bit harsh, but enough is definitely enough - and it's time for a reality check.

  • Comment number 91.

    Typical sexist comments from eddixon and Bryn_the_Cat. Not all women push their partners or husbands to reckless expenditure or demand they are lavished with all the latest fashion accessories. I actually support my partner financially, we live in my house, I pay the mortgage. And no, I don't wear a kaftan, have unshaven armpits and eat lentils. I just happen to have the better paid and more secure job.

    You men are supposed to be tough ones. Why do you let your women push you around then, as appears to be implied in your comments?

    Get over it!

  • Comment number 92.

    Women are definitely responsible for the Euorpean scatter-cushion mountain

  • Comment number 93.

    Isn't it funny how major wars stopped once the invention of the aeroplane bought bombs to the home. Until then 'we' were quite happy for millions of British men to go fight and die overseas (nowadays it's hundreds, not millions, enormous difference). Women love a guy in uniform.

    I don't quite see how you can look at the typical mega shopping center with 90% of the shops aimed at women, and blame consumerist excesses solely on men. I don't really think single men typically rack up big credit card debits down Ikea and B & Q redecorating their house every 5 years, either.

  • Comment number 94.

    Interesting blog robert, but Angela Merkel's German economy also seems to have gone t*ts up?....

  • Comment number 95.

    Sexism of course has the same injustices as all other forms of discrimination, unfortunately it is probably the most ingrained in society.

    For me, grannyfromthesticks raises probably the biggest problem of sexism, namely that women need to behave like me to be taken seriously. She is absolutetly right that the culture of decision making needs to be taken away from being in the pub or on the golf course to be being within structured company meetings.

    Compassion, an ability to empathise, caring, lack of aggression , planning for the future are all virtues that most companies would be better off for having. Nurturing children and the family are characteristics of a leader.

    Unfortunately as invisiblehandadvisor said "Ruthlessness, lack of empathy, a grandiose belief in their own competence are character traits not uncommon amongst so called 'leaders'."

    Clearly everybody should be allowed their view, but i am surprised at the number of blogs which seem not to want to discuss sexism as its own topic.

    Maybe raising the topic via the banking crisis is a mistake as clearly there was a specific, greed, risk taking and dog eat dog culture to blame. Sexism though is still a major problem in UK commerce and industry, resulting in not least of all the loss of a wealth of talent.

  • Comment number 96.

    Having worked under a woman MD who took a successful profit-making company (built up by men) and turned it single-handedly into a loss-making one, I don't believe that all women would necessarily be a better choice. She masked her incompetance by sacking a succession of scapegoats and still the group management backed her. She was more interested in her bonuses and share options than her staff. Eventually the company had to be merged into one of the other group comanies as we were no longer credit-worthy in our own right. Along the way a lot of good people were sacked or thoroughly demotivated and left before the inevitable redundancies.

  • Comment number 97.

    This is just another example of modern society's desperate need to find a reason to blame men for everything.

    This article would have you believe that men are at fault for the collapse of the global economy while blissfully ignoring the fact that women make up 50% of that population, more than 50% of university places, more than 50% of world wide consumption and after 70 years of feminism (which has morphed into a rights grab not in the slightest bit concerned with equality), they make up a large proportion of the work force.

    Are you seriously suggesting that there wasn't a significant proportion of women working in the financial industry at all levels? Are you seriously suggesting that there wasn't a significant proportion of women making the political decisions? Are you seriously suggesting that the women of the world were making prudent financial decisions while the men, completely unbeknowst to their so-called better halves, were making reckless decisions that brought down the whole house of cards?

    Where were these voices of reason? I didn't hear them.

    Where were these pillars of modern society? I didn't see them.

    What exactly was Nera doing while Rome burned?

    There are two ways to sell to women - either compare them unfavourably to women (the self-styled "beauty" industry) or compare them favourably to men (diet coke / tampons - what men have to do with either is beyond me).

    This article reminds me of the latter.

    All I saw was a massive party where everybody was hammered and we're all suffering the hangover equally.

  • Comment number 98.

    Quite right.

    they are Called BLAIR and BROWN

  • Comment number 99.

    Robert, I enjoy your blogs, especially when they are based on facts, stellar insights, etc, but when you venture into social science lah-lah land, then you are diminishing your status in my mind. Gender is just a poor area to set up a hypothesis on this complex area and how can anyone prove/disprove one way or the other? What's Steph' Flanders got to say about this? Your a front man, sorry person, for a great team of contributors. Keep the high ground. I just hope you are not getting bored with the complexity of the core topic?

  • Comment number 100.

    It would be nice to see some focus on changing the way we reward people in business. Until the focus for reward changes from the the short term daily / weekly / monthly perfomance to 2 year, 5 year etc there will be no change in the way people behave nor the decisions they make. This would require a fundamental shift in business culture as it will require people to remain in a role in excess of 5 years to achieve their reward, rather than hopping from job to job and reaping short term benefits.

    If you want a byline then its a change from instant gratification to long term satisfaction.


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