When's the best time to get pregnant if you work in an investment bank? According to my female colleague on the trading floor, it's August. That way you can announce your pregnancy to your boss in October and make sure that you're not filtered out in end of year redundancies. - Banks are so fearful of court cases nowadays that they will rarely make a pregnant woman redundant.
At least, that's my colleague's thinking. She had her first child less than a year ago and - even though she readily admits that it's not optimal - has decided to have a second child in the middle of next year. We all know that cost cutting is coming and rightly or wrongly she thinks that her pregnancy will protect her.
Her strategy may not work. The shape of the team is shifting. All our new hires have coding skills and my female colleague - who manages the team - does not. She already works 12 hour shifts, commutes 45 minutes each way and looks after her young family and she says she has neither the time nor the inclination to learn how to code. This is a problem. She can't replicate the work the juniors are doing herself and her role is increasingly becoming that of an administrator. Clients have started bypassing her and going to the juniors directly. This hasn't gone unnoticed internally: she's rarely able to elaborate upon or explain her work at meetings. However, she wanted to get promoted so that she earned a higher salary, but when you work in a bank a promotion simply means you'll appear more on the management radar.
I don't know how to code either and I too therefore feel exposed. And because my female colleague is pregnant again I'm even more fearful that I will be chosen when my managers are looking for people to cut.
Do I blame her? Not really: if I had a choice I would probably do the same. My colleague is the biggest earner in her family - her husband is a school teacher and is very passionate about his job and they couldn't lead their lifestyle without her income. She was planning a second child anyway, so you could say she has simply brought her pregnancy forward a few years.
Nonetheless, I'm not sure it's the right decision. I suspect that my already exhausted colleague is simply storing up more stress for the future. This is a short term fix to problem that is only going to get worse. It would help if the bank had given her more support when she returned from her first maternity leave - but despite all the talk about helping working mothers, that kind of support barely exists. Instead, therefore, she's taken matters into her own hands. I hope it works out.
Hector Saville is the pseudonym of a trader at a U.S. investment bank
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