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Combining a banking career with being a mother

Nicola Horlick, a high flier who has had six children, became a household name as a 'superwoman' after her acrimonious departure from Morgan Grenfell Asset Management in 1997.

In her book Can you have it all? the top fund manager, now at SG Asset Management, dismisses the idea that she is unusual in her career-and-family juggling act.

Women certainly are more numerous in financial services than they used to be, and this could be because attitudes have changed among both them and among employers.

"People now realise they can leave having children until a much later stage and this is apparent in the City of London," says Bernadette Conroy, head of strategic planning for investment banking at HSBC, and mother of two children under the age of two.

Linda Klemme is an investment banker who has worked in the City of London continuously since 1983, with the exception of two 16-week periods of maternity leave.

She has two children, now aged 15 and 13 and at boarding school. Klemme maintains that life has become easier for working mothers in the last 10 years as women have became more accepted in the traditionally male world of banking.

"It was more difficult when I was on a trading floor because there were absolutely no working mothers during those early years and it was a macho environment. I had to be totally dedicated and focused all day long," she says.

Helena Watson, founding director of the City of London executive search firm Fraser Watson, says a fortunate few are able to arrange part-time working or job sharing.

"For example, a small number of women who have valuable skills in equity research in sectors where experienced candidates are in short supply have arranged to work four days a week for enlightened employers," she says.

"Employers are not keen to enter into contractual agreements to let people work hours out of the office, but analysts can often manage their workload so that some writing or research work is done at home," she adds.

Conroy says that banks look on working mothers with more favour nowadays because they are realising that a lot of the best workers are female.

"Most people are having to change their working practices to accommodate families," she says. "It helps enormously to have a surrounding environment that recognises this."

But she adds that women must recognise the commercial needs of their employers. This is a view recognised by Pam Carter, managing director and head of distressed loan trading at CSFB.

"If the desired result can be reached without my physical presence in the office, then I might leave early, or come in after I've dropped the children at school," she says.

"If I am needed in the office all day, then I come in as early as necessary and stay as long as I am required. Flexibility has to be a two-way street."

Ten years ago, in response to the rising number of women combining motherhood with a financial career, Laura Carstensen set up City Parents at Work, an information and support network. She is a partner at the law firm, Slaughter and May, and mother to six children under the age of 12.

"In the early 80s, women who took longer than six weeks' maternity leave may have been seen as lacking in ambition," she says. "Now, more women take several months and, in the last four years, more men are taking a week or two of paternity leave.

"Despite this, the endemic of long working hours means that quality childcare and domestic support is essential."

Klemme says that the key to managing a career and a family is meticulous organisation combined with a high energy level.

"Make sure you earn a lot of money so you can have plenty of child care and help around the house," she says.

"This will enable you to spend all your free time having fun with your children and not focused on the mundane things of running a house and family. Food should be ordered over the internet and accounts set up with a good local butcher and greengrocer."

"When my children were growing up I was selling fixed income securities on a trading floor. So I went to work very early in the morning and was able to be home for their bath and dinner every night," she adds.

"I do not think a working mother has to be racked with guilt and sacrifice her soul for her family. There needs to be a balance."

Conroy describes the balance that she has achieved. "I took four months off with each child and now am fairly rigid about the time that I leave work," she says.

"My secretary will not book meetings for me after 5pm. So although I arrive in the office at 7.30am I almost always insist that I put my children to bed myself."

Case studies

Christine Morrissey is managing director and European head of fixed incomes derivatives at UBS Warburg

"I am lucky in that I moved to the UK from the US nine years ago and my husband was willing to give up his job to look after our twin babies, who were two years old at the time. So we do not have the pressure of two careers within the same household.

I have the huge luxury of a non-working spouse.

Combining motherhood with a career is tough but the fact that there are significant financial pay-offs really helps. Nicola Horlick has made a positive impact on the perception of women in the workplace, balancing work and family values.

I advise new graduates not to shy away from careers that have historically been male-dominated, such as the financial services industry, because these careers may carry additional financial benefits.

As I see it, most careers are stressful and many jobs have long working hours. I do work 10-12 hour days, sometimes longer. I take the occasional morning or afternoon off to attend to family commitments. I come into work early and try hard not to let my work eat into my children's activities.

However, I am lucky to have my husband organising the day-to-day running of the house and looking after the children.

I do not think the City of London is more sexist than other establishments. I work in derivatives, which is potentially less 'old boy' as it is a newer sector. Maybe in other parts of the industry it would be a different case.

It shouldn't be necessary for a woman to compromise a career that she genuinely enjoys in order to have a family. If my husband and I are happy, there is a good chance my children will be happy.

Katalin Tischhauser is head of international convertibles research at Goldman Sachs for nine months. She has three children between the ages of one and seven

"The situation is not necessarily the same across the market, so I am fortunate that Goldman Sachs accommodates the needs of working mothers. Employees are encouraged to have a balance in their life so, for example, attending parent-teacher meetings, carol concerts or sports days will not be frowned upon.

The concierge service the firm provides is helpful in terms of the day-to-day needs of my family: running errands, shopping, and so on.

What helps women combine a high pressure job in financial services and a family is the relatively higher incomes - as long as you can afford high quality, reliable, full-time childcare, logistically it is not that difficult to manage.

Physically and emotionally it is hard and I think you need to be a pretty tough person to cope.

If you can, choose an employer who will be understanding of the particular pressures you will have and supportive in helping you make it work - without that, it is really hard.

Having a full-time career and a good size family in your life means there is no time left for yourself.

It is quite likely that you will have to wait until your children are around 10 years old before you have time again for a facial - you must be able to not get stressed about this."

AUTHORAnonymous Insider Comment

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