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UK has 3rd female PM but gender is still an issue

5th Sep 2022
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So Liz Truss has become the new prime minister, replacing Boris Johnson — finally.

This is, of course, the country's third female PM something of which we can feel justly proud. But just because the top table is dominated by women (let's not forget the Queen), it doesn't mean gender discrimination is a thing of the past. 

The recent release of Bully Market, outlining one New Yorker's terrible treatment while working at Goldman Sachs demonstrates the state of play across the pond.  It outlines how she felt as if she would pass out after confronting a subordinate having an affair with a client who wrapped his hand under her jaw, pinned her against a wall and screamed, “If I could, I’d rip your fucking face off.”  She stopped using the bank’s lactation rooms after a boss said she would never make managing director if she was pumping milk instead of working. When she went ahead anyway after having another baby, male colleagues moaned “Moooo” and pretended to squeeze their breasts as she headed to the lactation centre. One day she got back to find a toy cow on her desk.  She passed out at work, having gone back earlier than her doctor advised after a miscarriage - because a manager said the office was short staffed and when his wife had a miscarriage “she was fine after a few days”.

But we shouldn't feel smug here in the UK.  

Almost a third of women in the UK say sexual harassment has had an impact on their career, according to recruiter Randstad UK.  And two-thirds of women (67 per cent) report they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace in some form.  This was most likely to come in the form of comments or inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues - although being passed over for a promotion was also a common form of gender discrimination. 

Victoria Short, the chief executive of Randstad UK, said: “The word ‘banter’ has a lot to answer for."

I'll say. 

So, yes, there might be a bit less less organisational bias against women at the very peak of power. That's a good thing. But outside of the cabinet and the boardroom, it’s a very different story.  Let's not get too smug yet.

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