Banks hold open day to attract female graduates

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Maureen Erasmus, head of European strategy at Lehmans, was a guest speaker at an open day for female undergraduates at 20 banks in London this week, run by the graduate careers publisher, GTI.

The 300 undergraduates from various European universities were divided into groups of thirty, each attending two banks on one day.

The aim was to give them a clearer idea of what opportunities investment banking presented and to help dispel preconceptions of a macho culture.

Students were given the opportunity to talk to recent graduates and graduate recruiters and female investment bankers. They were invited to play four games - IT, trading, financial operations and investment banking, to help give a better idea of the internal operations of the banks.

Erasmus said: &quotWe want a level playing field and it is essential to have a broad coverage through gender and race disciplines. A lot of perceptions out there need to be knocked on the head.&quot

Mark Blythe, director at GTI, said: &quotThe issue of attracting an equal number of female applicants to men has been raised time and time again by the banks.&quot

Blythe says he had noticed a ground swell of interest from female undergraduates, and the event was three times over subscribed this year. Many of the graduates present at Lehmans' open day, expressed favourable impressions.

Emily Smith, an economics undergraduate at Warwick University, said: &quotI initially thought it was unfair that the talks focused on women in banking. But when I spoke to some of the female investment bankers present, I understood the purpose was to open up the recruitment pool and make women aware of the opportunities.&quot

&quotThe career advice I have had until now, has always told me that it will be three times harder for me to work in a bank than it is for men. That is quite off-putting but finding that this is not the case, is quite refreshing&quot, she added.

Some students said they would now consider investment banking as a career option. &quotIt's definitely something I would do more research on&quot, said Ruth Kelly, an International Management and French undergraduate at Bath University.

The initiative is supported by 20 financial organisations, Reuters and London Business School.

The sponsoring employers are ABN AMRO, Barclays Capital, Broadview, Citigroup, Credit Suisse First Boston, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, Fidelity Investments, Goldman Sachs, HSBC Investment Banking & Markets, ING Barings, Investec, JPMorgan, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Rothschild, RBS Corporate Banking & Financial Markets, Schroders, UBS Warburg.

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