Cambridge research exposes banks’ discrimination against women

Connie Fisher 21 November 2011

Cambridge professor Noreena Hertz has claimed that banks in Britain, Europe and the U.S. are treating women as second class citizens.

The study found evidence of pregnant women being denied loans or mortgages and of women on maternity leave being told they must wait until they return to work before taking out a loan.

It was also claimed that female entrepreneurs are being let down by banks who treat them as less able to set up a business of their own and are questioned over the amount of research they have done into the business significantly more than male applicants wanting to enter the same industry. There was also evidence that British female business owners pay on average one per cent higher interest on loans than their male competitors.

The paper was published by the Institute of Public Policy Research, and argued that under the UK Equality Act 2010 discrimination is illegal and must be investigated and stopped.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg echoed this as he passed the issue to the equalities minister Lynne Featherstone who will investigate the problem further. Mr Clegg called discrimination “not only unacceptable, but illegal” and said he would be requesting banks to “publish their lending decisions by gender in a transparent fashion.”

The British Bankers Association has dismissed the claims as an “unaudited paper” and a spokesperson for the Association advised: “Anyone who feels his or her bank has acted improperly should contact it directly.”

Professor Hertz, who led the research at the University’s business school said: “It’s as if we’ve gone back in time to the 1950s” and regarding the denial of funds to female entrepreneurs said: “it is imperative that women be able to play their full part in the economic recovery.”

Connie Fisher