The day before eight male bankers were quizzed by 13 male MPs over the banking crisis there was a coming together of a different kind. On Monday February 9th, 85 female Labour activists had travelled to London for their party's 2009 women's summit. "I've found myself asking 'what if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Sisters?'" said Glenys Kinnock MEP.
Just 5% of City managing directors are female and women such as Kinnock see a golden opportunity: the City of London is being rebuilt, and the complexion of the UK workforce will - they predict - emerge gender-neutral.
Companies with a female chief executive or board director achieving a 10% higher return; US companies with the most female board directors achieving a 53% higher yield on equity; two women now run two of the failed Icelandic banks and Barack Obama has appointed Mary Schapiro to run the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US body charged with preventing future excess.
But with the exception of Ann Godbehere, who took a senior post at Northern Rock, there is little sign of women taking the seats vacated by disgraced male bankers in the UK, as for most women sex discrimination exists at the very top of corporate Britain. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recently been tasked with investigating discrimination in the City where there is a 44% gender pay gap (against a 23% gap nationally). Therefore, the issue for the majority is not how to bag a boardroom chair, but how to hang on to the more modest jobs they have - and here, the prognosis is worrying; research from the US suggests that the recession is likely to drive women out of the workplace and back into the kitchen far more effectively than any chauvinist propaganda.
So what role for women in the current crisis?
Women have contributed enthusiastically to the UK's gargantuan pile of personal debt, but they at least cannot be blamed for blowing up the financial system, since finance remains a male preserve.
However, the idea that women would intrinsically make more sensible money managers than men is controversial. A senior female director in the FTSE 100 says: "I would like to believe women are more intelligent, but we are not inherently more virtuous. Sadly some women are just as capable of machismo, though that might be because they are not confident enough to bring feminine qualities to the boardroom. We need a better mix overall - more people from different social classes and different ethnicities - it is not just about gender."
The last recession saw women - traditionally employed in retail and services - comparatively cossetted. This recession, wiping out services in the south-east, will be different.
Statistics show a higher proportion of women being laid off in the in the southeast - which will reflect cuts in the financial services where many women, while not high earning bankers, work.
The statistics show that the recession is hitting women harder than men. But that may not be the full picture: figures for last September and November showed women losing their jobs twice as fast as men (53,000 women in full-time employment compared to 36,000 men).
One glimmer of hope in the crunch is that businesswomen like Julie Meyer and Karen Gill believe that female-run small and medium firms could cope better their male equivalents. Gill says: "Female enterprise has really advanced in the past 20 years. Women do tend to be a bit more risk-averse and reluctant to take on huge amounts of debt. In the past, that was seen to be a barrier to growth; now it is a strength. They are also much more receptive to advice, whereas male pride can stop them asking for help. I don't think that banks will discriminate against women when it comes to funding. I actually think the tables will turn because the banks are looking for steady but good growth, and that will work in women's favour. The crunch is just one more challenge, but female entrepreneurs are used to overcoming barriers."
picked from various articles by The Guardian and The Observer (Allegra Stratton, and Ruth Sutherland respectively)