Mothers are worth less to City firms than men, Ukip leader Nigel Farage said today - but women prepared to sacrifice family life can do as well as male colleagues, if not better.
Mr Farage, who worked in a brokerage firm for nearly 20 years, told an audience in the City of London that he believed women make "different choices" to men for "biological reasons".
He said he believes there is no discrimination against women in the City but his own experience had shown that brokers are "as valuable as the client base that sticks with you and will move with you".
"In many, many cases, women make different choices in life to the ones that men make simply for biological reasons," he said.
"If a woman has a client base and has a child and takes two or three years off work, she is worth far less to the employer when she comes back than when she goes away because her client base cannot be stuck rigidly to her."
He added that when he first started work in the City, it was a "deeply sexist" place.
"I don't believe that in the big banks and brokerage houses and Lloyds of London and everyone else in the City, I do not believe there is any discrimination against women at all.
"I think that young, able women who are prepared to sacrifice the family life and stick with their careers do as well, if not better, than men."
Mr Farage also accused the media of unfairly highlighting the views of a Ukip councillor about the floods and gay marriage.
He initially joked about the "incredibly damaging" effect when "defectors" from the Conservative Party join Ukip and say "appalling and outrageous things" before going on to claim that the views of Henley-on-Thames councillor David Silvester had not been a "news story" until he joined Ukip from the Tories.
"I think it is very interesting that, when Mr Silvester was saying these things in 2012 and 2013 as a Conservative town councillor in Henley, it was not a news story," Mr Farage said.
"But suddenly he switches to Ukip and continues the same thing and gets on the national news.
"I think that shows you and tells you all you need to know.
"The establishment, the status quo, the big businesses, the big Eurocrats and our three so-called main political parties are scared witless by what Ukip is doing because we are striking a chord not just for ordinary people but for many elements in the business community as well.
"They will try to do whatever they can to shoot us down."
Mr Farage who was speaking in a question-and-answer session in the City on the European Union, said to the media afterwards: "If you accept defectors from the Conservative Party you will always have embarrassments.
"Mr Silvester joined us from the Conservatives very recently - he said exactly the same things when he was in the Conservative Party; now he is Ukip you are interested."
Mr Farage's remarks were made after Mr Silvester claimed the country had been "beset by storms" since the passage of the new law on gay marriage because David Cameron had acted "arrogantly against the Gospel".
He was suspended by Ukip after defying a request not to do further interviews on his beliefs following his initial claims made in a letter to a local newspaper.
His suspension came as Mr Farage launched a clear-out of "extremist, nasty or barmy" views from the party ahead of polls in May.
Mr Silvester said he had warned the Prime Minister of "repercussions" if gay marriage had gone ahead and told BBC Radio Berkshire that his daily prayers convinced him the recent flooding was the consequence.
He said the new law, paving the way for the first gay marriages in Britain this spring, was the latest mistake which would anger God - following on from abortion laws, which he likened to the Holocaust.
In the radio interview, which followed his initial claims about the link between flooding and gay marriage in a letter to the Henley Standard, Mr Silvester said: "I don't have a problem with gay people.
"I believe as a Christian I should love gay people, and indeed I do. My prayer for them is they will be healed."
Mr Silvester said he was convinced that there were "repercussions for a nation persisting in what is wrong", and that he had clear beliefs "there are things that are right and wrong".
"Over the years we have done many things that have caused problems," he said.
"One, for example, is the abortion laws in which something like six million children, as many as the people killed by the Nazis in the death camps, have been killed as a result of the abortion laws.
"Now, this is a process. The latest in this process is these homosexual laws and the homosexual marriage."
The councillor said Ukip had told him not to give any more interviews.
The party, which initially supported him after his letter to the Henley Standard newspaper, has now used emergency powers to suspend him.
Discussing Mr Silvester's comments, Mr Farage told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "The fact is that he is very, very strongly opposed to gay marriage, and I understand that and I respect that. People should have the right to hold that view.
"However, linking it in with bad weather is heading towards the barmy edge.
"The problem with Mr Silvester is that he insists on repeating it and repeating it and repeating it."
Asked whether he had shown weak leadership in his own response to the issue, Mr Farage said: "The truth is that, when he made those comments, I was less than happy with them. I sent him a message to say 'Look, I don't agree with you and I think this is really rather silly'.
"It was a clear message to say 'Will you please desist from repeating this, or you will bring the party into disrepute', and he went on repeating it. So actually, in a sense, the action that was taken against Mr Silvester was done for disciplinary reasons, not for his own views.
"I think this is all out of proportion. This guy is a town councillor in a small Oxfordshire town. He's not our national chairman, for goodness' sake."
Mr Farage said Ukip had undertaken a "very rigorous" vetting process for candidates for this year's European Parliament elections, but said there was no opportunity to vet Mr Silvester, who had joined the party locally as a volunteer.
"The bedrock of politics in Britain are volunteers, and you are going to find some who cause problems," he said.
"Unless everybody who stands for Ukip in future is a robot, then we are probably going to have a few more problems as time goes on, but it's a question of how deal with it and we are putting in place much more rigorous procedures."
Rosalind Bragg, director of the charity Maternity Action, commenting on Mr Farage's remarks about women and discrimination in the City, said: "W e are very disappointed at the criticism of working mothers.
"This will make life more difficult for the hundreds of thousands of women who are doing an effective job of balancing work and family responsibilities. We need practical support for new mothers at work, not more criticism."
Kirsty Ayre, a partner in the employment practice at international law firm Pinsent Masons, said: "The notion that women are somehow intrinsically worth less to financial institutions as a result of having families is laughable.
"We know from FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) data that literally hundreds of women are put forward for 'significant influence positions' every year, suggesting that the institutions themselves disagree with this assertion.
"Further, were you to look at those females in senior positions in the City, many of them will have families - as will the men.
"These remarks reflect an incredibly narrow view of worth. The days when you evaluate someone's contribution based on their book of contacts are long gone and employers risk losing out on top talent if that is their attitude."