Two of the most powerful people in the UK met yesterday to discuss Brexit and the future of the United Kingdom, yet readers of the Daily Mail would have a hard time finding out what happened; the paper decided to focus on Prime Minister Theresa May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s appearances rather than the topics at hand. As well as a front page headline which proclaimed “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it!” the paper went on to have three articles dedicated to who wore what and how they looked, prompting widespread outrage.
Theresa May and Angela Merkel are two of the world’s most powerful women and, some may say, have proven that the glass ceiling no longer exists. But with outdated, sexist attitudes such as that shown by the Daily Mail headline and coverage still evident, what does this say about equality in the workplace? Would male leaders have been judged in the same way? Will women ever be taken seriously as leaders, both politically and in the workplace, or will there always be a focus on their appearance?
Jacob Demeza-Wilkinson, employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, explains: “There is no longer any room in the workplace for the views expressed by the Daily Mail and the way that they have approached this matter would not be tolerated in most, if not all, modern workplaces. To focus on a woman’s appearance rather than her skills, abilities and experience is a very outdated and backward way of thinking and should certainly not be adopted in any workplace.
“There are now numerous protections in the law to stop women in the workplace being treated unequally to men. This applies to recruitment, the way that women are spoken to and considered in the workplace, and to their prospects of progressing through the ranks.
“In short, women should be given the same respect as men in the workplace, should be given the same opportunities to progress within the business, and should be allowed to dress how they wish, within the Company’s dress code policy, without judgment or repercussions.
“Since the ratification of the Equality Act, it is now especially important to ensure equal treatment across your employees, as falling foul of the Act could lead to a claim against the Company for discrimination, for which the compensation is technically unlimited, leaving your business exposed to an expensive payout.”