Agitated Bower 'a danger to Schroder business'

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Julie Bower, 35, ignored her bosses' advice, fired off curt letters and emails to executives and challenged the chairman in a finger jabbing confrontation, which he described as 'one of the most shocking moments in my professional life'.

Bower, who earned 120,000 a year, is suing Schroder Securities for sexual discrimination, constructive dismissal, breach of contract and unequal pay.

The hearing in Stratford, East London, was told that Bower was unpopular with the sales force and irked management by making a string of complaints over minor issues.

Philip Augar, former chairman of Schroder Securities, told how she reacted badly when he suggested she take relationship skills training, a course he himself had undertaken.

He said she appeared open to the suggestion when he raised it in a meeting, yet two weeks later, he received an abrupt letter of complaint.

Augar said: 'I was struck by the harsh tone of the letter which was in contrast to the meeting in which she had seemed to accept my suggestion. She was showing signs that she believed herself to be beyond control of management, a dangerous situation for people in the securities business.'

He added: 'I had undergone personal training myself and have also recommended it to other colleagues. I was getting the impression Julie would tolerate no view other than her own.'

After receiving the letter a meeting was arranged involving Augar, Bower and Victoria Prescott, the head of personnel, in which the female analyst accused the chairman of harassment after he again, raised the topic of relationship counselling.

Augar said: 'I remember her jabbing her finger in the direction of Victoria and saying to us, 'right, that's harassment.' It was one of the most shocking moments of my professional life. I have a very clear recollection.'

The tribunal heard that only four of the 28 analysts working at Schroder are women.

However, Augar insisted he believed strongly in equal rights and had appointed a female as head of the sales team, shortly after he joined the bank.

He said: 'I find prejudices of any kind extremely distasteful. I am aware of the low proportion of females working in stockbroking. It is 17% according to a recent survey and I wish to improve that proportion.'

Augar said his finger jabbing confrontation with Bower in August 1997 contrasted starkly with his first meeting in July 1997 when she told him she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer.

He said: 'I was struck by the dignity and courage she displayed.'

Responding to an allegation from Bower, who lives in Pimlico, central London, that male managers conspired to oust her from the firm, he said: 'To my knowledge, no campaign existed to force her from employment.'

The case continues.

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