Following a shocking press report last week, where the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Angela Rayner, was accused by the Mail on Sunday of “putting Boris Johnson off his stride in the chamber by crossing and uncrossing her legs when they clash at Prime Minister’s Questions”, and a further report of a married MP putting his hand up a female MP’s skirt, once again the issues surrounding misogyny in the workplace are being brought to the fore.
The article was rightly condemned by all political parties, and both Angela Rayner and the Prime Minister, but it does highlight again why mysogyny at work remains a burden that women are wrongly expected to bear.
Rachel Phillips, Employment Solicitor at JMW Solicitors, says:
“Whilst some may look at their workplace and believe there is no such problem, countless women are still feeling the pressure to alter their behaviour and avoid unwanted attention and comments at work. Individual women bear the heavy burden of trying to stop misogyny in the workplace, often at great personal and professional risk to themselves, by adjusting their own behaviours, leaving jobs, or engaging with reporting and investigating systems that do not suit their needs. It is clear that more action needs to be taken to put a stop to misogyny not only in Westminster but in all workplaces across the UK. Misogynistic behaviour could amount to sex discrimination, victimisation or harassment.”
Rachel’s guidance for employees and employers
- If employees do feel they are suffering sexist treatment, a first step is to raise issues informally with a supervisor or HR colleague. If a more formal avenue is required, employees should follow their employer’s grievance procedure. Employees will only have the confidence to speak up and raise issues to HR if they feel safe and supported in the workplace. Importantly, women should not have to adjust their behaviour to address misogynistic and sexist behaviour.
- It is also important to add that transgender and non-binary employees also face high levels of discrimination within the workplace.
- Misogynistic and sexist behaviour can have detrimental effects for an employer:
- Holds employees back from senior positions and channels women to stereotypically ‘feminine’ roles.
- Risks losing valuable female talent.
- Negatively affects employees’ performance, sense of belonging, mental health and job satisfaction.
- Damages an organisation’s image.
- Could lead to Employment Tribunal claims which are time-consuming, costly and risk damaging reputation.
- Employers need to be careful to assess their workplace policies, dress codes, gender pay gaps, promotional patterns as well as their overall culture.
- Employers can help by having clear company policies on required standards of behaviour (including anti-harassment and bullying policies), staff training to handle complaints, allowing flexible working, having family friendly policies, avoiding role stereotyping, closing the gender pay gap, promoting a respectful and inclusive culture and importantly engaging men in the conversation. Practical and meaningful steps need to be taken to identify and eliminate all forms of everyday sexism.
Owner of Need to See IT Publishing, Editor Lisa Baker adds:
“It goes without saying that mysogynistic behaviour should not be tolerated in the workplace, but it shouldn’t be tolerated in the media either. Culture has a part to play and I am shocked that the Editor of the Mail on Sunday, in 2022, thought this was an acceptable article to publish. I look forward to the day where sexism is not tolerated anywhere. Unfortunately, this row shows we have a long way to go.”