A longtime National Australia Bank (NAB) employee has accused the company of failing to act on reports of her manager’s poor behaviour, in a federal case that shines a spotlight on an alleged “boys’ club” culture at Australia’s biggest banks.
NAB employee Dikele Diawara has alleged she was subjected to years of negative behaviour by her boss, according to reporting from The Australian.
The human rights complaint alleges she was subjected to years of underpayment, racial and sexual discrimination, threatened with a baseball bat, and repeatedly ignored by management.
In a Federal Court filing, Diawara pointed the finger at her boss in repos — or secured repurchase agreements — head of trading Tim McCaughey, along with the actions of other members of the “overwhelmingly male” trading team.
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Diawara alleges the behaviour saw her suffer a financial hit as well as hurt, humiliation, distress and anxiety. She is on extended leave from NAB and is not currently acting in the role.
In the 17-page complaint, Diawara, who is a Black woman from France, alleges the bank’s “discriminatory pay practices” meant she was paid less than men in similar roles.
Experts say Australia’s finance sector presents some of the widest pay gaps between men and women, largely thanks to pay secrecy clauses that forbid employees from discussing pay.
However, recent months have seen some changes. Commonwealth Bank (CBA) and Westpac both removed pay secrecy clauses in contracts in March, meaning all four of the big banks have removed this aspect of pay secrecy.
Claims of wrongful dismissal were levelled at ANZ in 2020 by a former trader who alleged a male-dominated, toxic culture within the bank’s global markets division.
This saw allegations of trips to strip clubs, lewd language, and references to sex, drugs and alcohol use.
Ostracised for raising concerns
Diawara’s employment commenced when she joined NAB’s repo desk in London as a trader in 2017, before moving to Sydney in December.
NAB’s trading desk was “overwhelmingly male”, she alleges, with a “boys’ club culture” that shaped employee treatment.
Diawara alleges that when she raised concerns about this at a 2017 lunch organised to connect women working at the bank she was ostracised.
Following the lunch, she alleges men at NAB “regularly ignored” her and she was “rarely spoken to” as a consequence of speaking out.
“When other men wanted to discuss repo matters (the applicant’s area of responsibility) they would not speak to the applicant but rather would speak to persons such as Mr Papalkar,” Diawara alleges in the filing.
Poor pay was not addressed
Diawara also alleges her $200,000 remuneration was “the same, or not considerably greater than, what the respondent was paying persons in roles with less responsibility than the applicant”.
She also alleges she told NAB head of global repo David Bateman about her poor pay in 2017, but nothing was done until 2019 when she was given a $150,000 pay bump despite no change in her responsibilities.
But she alleges NAB did nothing to back-pay her or “otherwise compensate the applicant for the period of time she worked” while her pay was less than her male peers.
Diawara also alleges she was assigned to a desk far removed from traders, which “prevented her from conversing” with her team.
She alleges she was not moved despite raising the issue over the course of 16 months, which put her at a disadvantage to other heads of trading desks.
Finally, Diawara alleges NAB’s culture and McCaughey, her immediate superior, caused her to suffer from depression for behaviour that she alleges was impacted by her gender and race.
She alleges McCaughey ignored her for two days after starting at NAB, telling her — in front of “numerous staff” — that he was busy.
Diawara alleges Mr McCaughey regularly engaged in banter with other men on the repo trading desk, but regularly ignored her, rarely speaking with her and providing “no, or limited, support”.
She also alleges that in late 2019 or early 2020 McCaughey approached her while holding a baseball bat in his hands. He told her he didn’t want to hear about a customer “asking about NAB’s ability to deal repo” in residential mortgage-backed securities.
Mr McCaughey also allegedly humiliated her while she was giving a presentation to senior NAB staff, “by expressing in an aggressive tone, in front of those present, that the presentation was poor”.
Diawara alleges she experienced severe depression as a consequence of Mr McCaughey’s conduct and NAB’s “otherwise discriminatory treatment towards her”.
She also alleges when she told a superior she was considering making a complaint about McCaughey she was cautioned not to.
NAB told SmartCompany it was taking “these matters extremely seriously” and would participate in the court process.
“NAB is committed to supporting equality and diversity in the workplace,” a spokesperson for the bank said in a statement.