Video conferencing no excuse for sexism

It might be new technology, but the emergence of Zoom, Microsoft Teams ad all the other video conferencing platforms we’ve had to get used to over the past eight or nine months has brought the return of an old foe.

Sexism, it seems, is back in the workplace (not that it ever truly went away).

Women across the country have been reporting a series of uncomfortable experiences whilst using video conferencing for work during the pandemic.

An acquaintance of mine was asked in an email by her boss to make sure she put plenty of make-up on before a video meeting at work.

Yes, really.

And research shows this is not an isolated example.

Employment law firm  Slater and Gordon says a study carried out on its behalf among 2,000 people revealed some truly shocking statistics.

For example, around 34 per cent of women respondents had been urged to wear more make-up or work on their hair, while 27 per cent had been asked to dress more sexily or provocatively.

Four in ten women said their male colleagues had not been subject to similar requests – leaving them feeling objectified and demoralised.

Is it any wonder?

Add to that a growing number of complaints that women are frequently talked over or shouted down, their competency judged more on their appearance than their actions and often the victim of inappropriate remarks, and the situation is pretty bleak.

But it’s important to remember that it does not have to be this way – and woman do not have to put up with it.

There have been no changes to discrimination and equality laws as a result of the pandemic and video conferencing is simply no excuse for a return to such sexist behaviour.

A boss might try to justify his (it’s nearly always a man) actions by saying a touch of lipstick will impress a potential client or help convey a better image of the firm.

But this is the thinking of the dark ages.

It is simply unacceptable for any manager – or anyone who holds any position of power -  to ask a woman to ‘make themselves more attractive’ or ‘put something sexy on’ in any work context. No ifs, no buts.

Quite simply, any such request is discriminatory and unlawful because it creates  the sort of degrading and humiliating workplace which we have worked so hard to eliminate.

Of course, the vast majority of these cases go unreported because of the position of power held by the person making the request.

But no woman should have to suffer this sort of primitive, archaic abuse. It’s time to report each and every case, expose the perpetrators for what they are and make sure we create workplaces which are fit, decent and fair for all.

If you have suffered from this type of sexism in any way and need advice and help about what to do about it, please do get in touch. Click on the button for a free consultation and we will help in whatever way we can.

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