The Leader Column

A couple of weeks back (11 February) we reported on the news that Slaughter and May was taking an active role in the Government-sponsored report into women's employment. Along with Simmons & Simmons, Slaughters is one of the few firms to go public on the issue of the gender gap at partner level.
Very laudable, but one rather wonders if they're barking up the wrong tree. The fact that so many women drop out of the partnership track is more to do with the body clock than anything else. In most cases, they're not necessarily forced out; they're making a positive decision to see their children grow up before it's too late.
If management teams are really serious about the gender gap, perhaps they ought to examine it from another angle. Something rather nasty is happening in the City right now: there seems to be a creeping assumption that it's suddenly okay to go to strip clubs on your firm's or chambers' business. You can't move round London at the moment for adverts for Spearmint Rhino – also amusingly known as a gentlemen's club, presumably to distinguish it from the less expensive one-handed establishments. Was there ever a name more calculated to flatter its paying customers? Spearmint: ah, that minty freshness of an after-hours joint. Rhino: ooh, what a big horn you have. And joy of joy, Spearmint Rhino plans to open dozens more outlets across the country.
This isn't about being politically correct – you can do what you like in your spare time. Sure, a number of women pop along as spectators now and then, usually from curiosity, as a dare, in an attempt to be one of the chaps or because they don't want to be seen as sour puritans. But the strip club habitués had better know this: lots of your colleagues and clients alike – both men and women, because there are plenty of men who view such places with distaste – don't like it.
For the message that's being sent out to your colleagues and clients is aggressively and threateningly male: does corporate entertainment really have to revolve round Eastern European teenagers taking their clothes off? Does client hospitality have to resemble a stag night? What's wrong with going down the pub?
So this is a plea: show some consideration, especially to the women you work with. Do it in your own time, spend your own money… and grow up.
catrin.griffiths@thelawyer.com