Friday, 27 January 2017

one step forward

An email plopped into my inbox this week to confirm what I'd heard on the radio.  Following the petition on the parliament website calling for it to be made illegal for employers to require women to wear high heels at work which attracted 152,420 signatures, one of them mine, the House of Commons Petitions Committee launched a joint investigation with the Women and Equalities Committee, and their conclusion was that the Equalities Act 2010 was not fully effective in protecting workers from discrimination, and needed beefing up along with awareness campaigns aimed at employers and workers.  MPs will debate the subject at 4.30 pm on Monday 6 March in Westminster Hall, and the Government will respond to the joint Committees' report within two months.

I was pleased that so far progress is being made on the issue.  Admittedly, compared to the economic impact of Brexit, the fate of UK nationals currently living in Europe and EU nationals residing here (and the question of whether the lettuce farm will be able to find anybody to harvest the lettuces), the Syrian crisis, the mess in Iraq and Libya and Afghanistan, Islamic State, the Lord's Resistance Army, almost four years left to go with Donald Trump as President of the United States and an unknown number of years more of Putin, North Korea, the emergence of antibiotic resistant superbugs, the looming health crisis in the face of an aging and increasingly obese and diabetic population, female genital mutilation, the deteriorating mental health and wellbeing of Britain's young people, and global warming, the question of whether or not British women have to work all day in uncomfortable shoes that impede their mobility and are bad for their long term health is not the most burningly urgent issue of the day.

It is wrong, though, and goes along with a bunch of other things that are wrong like requiring women but not men to wear makeup or dye their hair blonde or wear body revealing clothing in order to carry out their jobs despite those things having nothing to do with the job of being a receptionist (as in the case of Nicola Thorp who started the petition).  Or a lawyer, or accountant, or project manager, or data entry clerk, or risk management officer, or any of the zillion other things that women and men do in offices and businesses the length and breadth of the land, only the men are judged on whether they send visitors to the right meeting room and tell their host they've arrived, or bring their projects in on time and on budget, or input their data correctly, without the additional requirement to look sexy (in the eyes of other men who equate sexiness with makeup, blonde hair and high heels).

Maybe I should write to my MP to tell him I signed the petition and trust he will find the time to be at Westminster Hall on the afternoon of 6 March.  He is very keen on Brexit and may not put the question of women's mandatory uncomfortable and unhealthy footwear at the top of his list of things to do.  Theresa May did not initially sound convinced that the Equalities Act 2010 wasn't enough for the job.  It would be a pity if this one were kicked into the long grass with an immaculate kitten heel.  Besides, ruling that receptionists do not have to wear high heels will annoy Piers Morgan.

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