The Option to be a Woman

Pills - Caroline Hoos

There exists an invisible boundary within world of investment banking between the number of women above and below one magic age: 30.

A quick look around confirmed this. With the exception of that bitter and disheartening 40-year-old MD/Madam, there are no daisies to be found. So where, exactly, have all the flowers gone?

Between the golden years of approximately 28 and 32, they begin dropping like flies. At some moment, while trying to sell some German government debt, the banking princess is hit over the head with the proverbial 'panic' button, which develops into a ringing hum in the back of her well-groomed head until, in a full-blown voice it shrieks, “MAKE BABY!” And so make she does.

It is during these very same crucial years that we humble analysts can also progress from junior to senior levels within the bank. So as I watch my slightly-older sisters leave their sparkling careers for desperate housewifery, their male counterparts pounce on those remaining, enviable positions like ravenous jungle cats. It begs the question: is this really such a worthwhile deal?

Don’t get me wrong - I love kids. And, as someone who resembles a Barbie doll with the personality of Bozo the clown, they love me back. I imagine turning off the lights with little squirrels and dancing in our socks to disco party mayhem, after which they go home to their parents and I go back to negotiating bid-offer spreads.

I conclude that Motherhood, and I say this with as much deference and esteem as I can muster, is grossly overrated. It is anything but my natural, womanly instinct to give up client lunches at Coq d’Argent for hamsters named Lunch; expense accounts for nappies; intellectually stimulating colleagues for Muppets; my svelte figure for saddlebags, and potential six-figure salary for daytime TV.

Pragmatically, the high-and-dry route of banking just seems so much more, well, fun. It never occurred to me, after the careful Cost-Benefit analysis I applied, that any rational girl would choose the frenzied and fat course over the jet-setting, lucrative one.

If I ever have a change of heart, I wonder: would my choice have to be so very binary? If I wanted to switch to the dark side, would it be then too late? Why can’t there be an exchange which sells options to be a mommy at a specific exercise date?

Alas, there is no such thing as 'part-timing' in the Square Mile. And while some Wonder Women dramatise having it all with four kids with four phones, just thinking about it made me exhausted. Buying into this trade must have an upside, I reckon - why else would so many otherwise brilliant young women take it? It is a choice I don’t have to make - yet.

But ask me again when I’m 28.