The depressing headline that shows sexism still has a workplace, despite legislation

Following years of sexism and discrimination in the workplace, the parliamentary debate on sexist dress codes and new legislation aimed at closing the gender pay gap, and people asking about women leaders in the FTSE 100,  it seemed like the UK was ready to take action and stamp out sexism from the workplace.

Sadly, it seems there is still some way to go.

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 But with outdated, sexist attitudes such as that shown by the Daily Mail headline and coverage still evident, what does this say about equality in the workplace?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?


“Outdated thinking that should not be adopted in any workplace”

Jacob Demeza-Wilkinson, employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, says:

“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 To focus on a woman’s appearance rather than her skills, abilities and experience is a very outdated and backward way of thinking and should certainly not be adopted in any workplace.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.”


“Women should be given the same respect as men in the workplace”

Demeza-Wilkinson continued:

“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.”


Daily Mail reported to Independent Press Standards Organisation

Amelia Womack, the deputy leader of the Green Party, accused the paper of breaking clause 12 of the Independent Press Standards Organisation editors’ code by treating women with “contempt” and has reported them to the organisation.

Clause 12 of the code says editors must “avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability”.

In her submission, Womack said:

“This headline and the further derogatory comments inside the paper would not have even been considered, let alone published, if the two politicians in question had been men.


“Women in the public sphere deserve to be treated with respect and the headline contributes to a wider culture of sexism. It reinforces a fallacy that politics isn’t a place for women, potentially putting off the next generation of leaders and decision makers.”


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