In 1797 the cartoonist James Gillray portrayed the Bank of England as the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, bestowing a nickname that has endured to this day. But the times are changing, and today the Bank announced it will remove all “gendered language” from the pages of its regulation.
The Bank will use further consultations to remove "all gendered language" from rulebooks and forms used throughout the finance sector, a spokesperson said.
The Bank’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) will change the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR), the rules governing how bankers, insurers, and other finance managers behave, according to a consultation document.
The regulation and various forms currently refer to "chairmen" in passages of regulation relating to the governing firms and committees. The change will also affect the use of "his/her" to address people.
Meanwhile, "grandfathering" – bringing old laws across into a new regime – will be known as "conversion" from now on. "Grandfathering" has featured prominently in recent discussions of laws and regulation post-Brexit, as the government and regulators convert EU law into UK law.
The Bank has faced criticism on its record on gender diversity, including from Nicky Morgan, the former Cabinet minister who heads the Treasury Select Committee.
Morgan last month warned the Bank it urgently needed to improve diversity at the top of its organisation, but she welcomed yesterday’s move.
“I think it is a welcome step and shows their commitment to diversity,” she said.
The Bank decided to make the changes alongside its efforts to rationalise the forms and other documents used in regulating bankers after extending the SM&CR to insurers.
The regulator's consultation said: "The PRA considers this to be an appropriate time to make these additional changes in the interests of efficiency and to expedite future amendments to forms."
The gender pay gap at the Bank came in at 24 per cent in November, with governor Mark Carney admitting it would “take time” to close it.
Carney said: “We’re confident that men and women are paid equally for doing the same job at the Bank. However, the greater proportion of men than women in senior roles creates a gender pay gap.”
The Bank has also faced campaigns in the past to put women on its £10 notes, resulting in the addition of Jane Austen to the tenner this year.
Caroline Criado-Perez, who led the successful campaign to put more women on banknotes, congratulated the Bank. She said: “This isn’t going to change the world overnight but I’m really pleased they’ve done it.
“Steps like this are important – and they’re so easy to do.”
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party, also welcomed the move. She said: “Terms like ‘chairman’ can reinforce gender stereotypes in an industry where the top ranks are already dominated by men.
“But ultimately actions speak louder than gender-neutral words. The Bank of England cannot expect to use this kind of exercise as a diversion from its deeply problematic gender pay gap and the lack of women in top roles.”