Category Archives: Women in the Work Place

Why is Baroness Hale a “woman judge”?

The UK Supreme Court


In a recent article by the Daily Mail the headline reads:

“Shout at your spouse and risk losing your home: It’s just the same as domestic violence, warns woman judge

There are three things wrong with this headline.

Firstly, its not really an accurate summary of the Supreme Court’s decision and if you’re interested why there’s a good post on it here.

Secondly, the decision came from the Supreme Court, rather than a single “woman judge” as suggested by the Mail.

And thirdly, it was completely unnecessary to highlight Lady Hale’s gender as her single most important defining feature.

And yet it is so often the case that when a woman judge makes a decision her gender is almost inevitably mentioned, as though of crucial importance.  By contrast a male judge is only ever a judge.

By qualifying a judge as “woman”, her authority is inevitably undermined and her judgments questioned.

When the Mail challenged Baroness Hale’s decision by calling her a “woman judge”, they decided not to challenge her legal judgment purely on the merits of her argument, but instead chose to make her gender part of the criticism.

And this is not an isolated example of this sort of gratuitous labelling. If you search “woman judge” in the Daily Mail search the first three results are

  • “How a top woman judge dragged her neighbour to court over a pair of Dobermans and landed him with a £20, 000 bill”
  • “No mercy: Woman judge jails Czech sham wedding bride who is pregnant with third child”
  • “‘It’s a f****** travesty!’ Woman judge’s foul-mouthed outburst after being convicted of failing to control her Alsation.”

And the Mail is by no means alone in using these sorts of unnecessary prefixes on a regular basis.  But everytime it happens, the female judge is labelled as different.

This is surely dangerous in a society where difference in our judges is not acceptable.


The Sky Sports Sexism Saga

This week the media has been engulfed in the drama surrounding the sexist comments made about lines woman Sian Massey and the subsequent sacking and resignation of pundits Andy Gray and  Richard Keys respectively.

The topic even made it onto Question Time on Thursday night, where business woman and former contestant on The Apprentice Katie Hopkins caused her own controversy by suggesting women could not take equal treatment.  She  said:

“I think Sky Sports has completely lost its sense of humour. I think as a nation potentially we have lost our collective sense of humour.

“I think people like Karren Brady, who have appointed herself patron saint of all things equal, does not speak on behalf of all of the sisterhood.

“I think women actually don’t want equal treatment, they couldn’t handle it if they got it, quite a number of them. It’s a tough world out there.

“I think the art of banter is something we should be proud of as a nation. I worked for a while in the military and our forces, the best in the world, in my opinion, they survive in banter. I think we need to keep that, we need to look after it.”

But does the sacking of a sports commentator, who incidentally is paid 1.7 million for the pleasure, really constitute Sky Sports losing its sense of humour?

For a start it is  questionable whether the comments made by Gray and Keys should even constitute “banter”, which surely is more than just being rude, and not to mention clichéd.

The term “banter”  covers a multitude of sins.  It seems you can call anyone anything, cover it with a veneer of humour and call it banter, no matter how nasty or unpleasant the underlying sentiment.

The fact is that male dominated work industries can be sexist and bullying towards female members of staff.  And even when its labelled a joke, its hard to deal with being constantly undermined on a daily basis.

In these sorts of industries it is important to question whether perhaps bullying may simply have been re-labelled as banter.

If this is the case, it is simply not acceptable.

Today, the most read story on the Daily Mail website is

Sky Sports sexists made my life hell, says woman worker who lost her home after being reduced to a nervous wreck

In it, Vanessa Bridger, former employee of Sky Sports told the Mail:

“Sexism and bullying is a culture which can be found throughout Sky Sports,

“When you work there, it’s so accepted that you think it’s normal. But it’s damaged so many people, and it has to stop. Maybe now it will.”

If women are ever going to achieve equality in the work place, cultures where sexism is perceived as normal will have to be tackled.




Women, quotas and positive discrimination

A former bank chief, charged with the task of increasing the number of women on company boards has said he is unlikely to recommend the use of quotas.

Lord Davies of Abersoch, who was employed by the Government to conduct a report into the subject said he was “not  convinced” that quotas represented the best way forward.

Writing in the Guardian’s Comment section he said:

“Quotas have proved successful in some countries but many of the women I have spoken with are against these. I have not ruled them out as a recommendation but at the moment I am not convinced that they are the right method to encourage progress.”

The main problem with quotas is that those appointed under them are often regarded as less capable than those who aren’t, regardless of how good they really are.

But expecting things to change by themselves is perhaps naive.  Women have been a significant part of the workforce since the first world war, and yet most high level jobs are still male dominated.

Currently, just 12.5% of directors in FTSE 100 companies are women, but this surely does not represent the ability or talent of today’s business women.

Lord Davies added:

“Female executives need to be recognised for the talent and skills that they possess. I know there is a multitude of women ready for board appointments, but from the conversations I have had it seems the root of the problem may be accessing this pool of talent.”

A key problem facing women is the selection process itself.

Historically is has been the case that employers tend to reproduce the status quo.  When application processes are informal and opaque, these tendencies are enhanced.

This makes it very worrying indeed that the Higgs report of 2003 found that just 4% of non-executive directors had had formal interviews.

Making the application and selection process open and accountable is surely the first step to increasing gender diversity at the top levels.

But there is a very real possibility that it will not be enough.

If this is the case, quotas may be the only remaining option.

First it was glass ceilings, now women are falling off glass cliffs

Recent research from Yale University, entitled Hard Won and Easily Lost has shown that glass ceilings are not the only thing women in professional careers have to worry about.

The American study shows that when women do jobs that are traditionally done by men, they are more likely to be seen as “unlikeable” and “incompetent.”

When they make mistakes, they are more likely to lose their jobs than men in the same position.

Dr Victoria Brescoll, who co-authored the report said:

“There is an effect called the glass cliff. You don’t really know, when you’re a woman in a high status leadership role, how long you’re going to hang on to it. You might fall off at any point.”

She said the findings of the study highlighted the fragility and vulnerability of women in top positions.

The findings are probably not surprising, but somewhat depressing nonetheless.

Breastfeeding at Work – Yes or No?


Picture by Christy Scherrer

Last week Health Secretary Andrew Lansley urged companies to provide breastfeeding facilities for new mothers.

Companies will be urged to allow nursing mothers to be able to take flexible breaks, provide fridges to keep expressed milk in and allow women to go home during the working day to feed their babies.

The proposals have been met with considerable criticism, from people who believe nursing mothers should be at home looking after their babies full time, to those who see the move as likely to cause even more discrimination against women in the work place.

Critics of giving new mothers extra protection in the workplace often use words such as “lifestyle choice” and talk about the “unfairness” of allowing working mothers more flexibility than other members of the workforce.

It seems an increasingly more accepted view that reproduction is a choice, and if a woman decides to make that choice she should pay for it accordingly.

This seems short-sighted.

True, women have more control over their reproductive systems than they have ever had before, but it is still in the interest of society that women have babies.  It is also in the interest of society that well-educated, successful and professional women can return to work.

Given that women are advised to breastfeed for 6 months, and they are entitled to only £100 a week after the first six weeks of maternity leave, it may simply not be feasible for a working mother to remain at home until she weans her child.

And given that it seems fairly well accepted that breastfeeding is good for babies, it makes sense to allow nursing mothers more flexibility.

Camilla Cavendish, of The Times writes:

“If you ask most mothers, you’ll find that the reason that we stop breastfeeding is not a lack of private rooms. It’s the whole painful fandango. It’s wanting not to be milk-soaked and bovine in front of the boss, adjusting breast pads and ruining shirts.”

If this really is the reason many women stop breastfeeding, to avoid the shame of lactating in front of your boss, what does it say about how breastfeeding is perceived in our society?

The issue of breastfeeding shows how far women, and particularly mothers, are from achieving equality in the work place.

Increasingly it seems that women are only equal to men if they act like men, and men certainly do not breastfeed.

Tell me what you think:

Hooters – What the People of Cardiff have to say.

Entrance to new Hooters restaurant in Cardiff

Yesterday self-proclaimed “delightfully tacky yet unrefined” Hooters restaurant finally opened in Mary Ann Street, Cardiff, after months of debate, argument and controversy.

For a recap on the story, look here.

Last night, beat blogger for the Guardian, Hannah Waldram, went to the VIP opening.

So I took to the streets of Cardiff to find out what people thought about the city’s newest restaurant.

Steve Thomas, 35, from South Wales came to Cardiff specially to visit the restaurant on its opening night.  Comparing the restaurant to one he had visited in the US he said:

“It’s a lot more modest in the UK.  It’s each to their own really.  I’m not really against the restaurant, but I’m not  for it either.”

Mpho Monyela, a young mother originally from South Africa but now living in Cardiff told me she would be happy to go there herself, but said

“It shouldn’t be branded as a family restaurant, it’s not a place for small children.”

Robert Phillips, 43, from Cardiff said the USP of the restaurant wasn’t really a selling point for him.  When asked about the girls uniforms he said:

“I object, you need to draw a line in the sand somewhere.”

Becca Caffery, 28, from Pontypridd had only heard of the restaurant as a result of its move to Cardiff.  Though she had never been in, she said:

“I think I would to see what it’s all about.  I think it’s probably a little bit exploitative though and not a very good example for young girls.”

Juliet Williams, 23, from Cardiff told me

“I probably wouldn’t go in because I’ve heard the food is meant to be substandard.  I think it’s just a bit of a laugh for groups of guys.  If the girls want to work there its not a problem.”

40 Years of Page 3 Girls

So this week marks the 40th anniversary of the national institution that is The Sun‘s Page 3.

And to ‘celebrate’ The Sun is launching page 360 – which offers the chance to see a 360 degree view of the topless models.  With a single click you can turn your model whichever way you want.


According to retired page 3 photographer Beverly Goodway being a good topless model is all in the eyes.  He said:

“She has to have the figure, but she also needs to glow. She needs a radiance which partly comes from lighting and partly from her feeling right in that situation.

I’ve always said the sexy thing about Page 3 isn’t that she’s got her top off, it’s the look in her eyes.”


So what you think about page 3 girls?

And if you fancy learning any more about Page 3 girls, take a look at this