A crackdown on sexism is the first step towards equality

By Heather Jameson | 12 June 2019
  • Heather Jameson

Local government is a sector that has always prided itself on its equality policies – but sometimes the reality leaves a lot to be desired.

On the whole, women get a better deal on pay than their private sector counterparts.

More than a decade after most authorities introduced their single status deals to tackle pay inequality, the gender pay gap is 6.8%. It’s vastly improved on the 12% gap in the private sector – but it is still 6.8% too much.

The latest stats show just 33% of councillors are women – dropping to 17% when it comes to leaders – while just 36% of chief executives are women. Perhaps not so bad, until you consider the female dominated nature of the local government workforce.

Let’s not even get started on BAME representation. A report last year from recruiters Green Park said just 3.7% of senior staff were of BAME with very little diversity at the chief executive level – although recent appointments at Bromley, Hammersmith & Fulham, Newham and Kingston LBCs may have helped the stats.

Failure to promote diversity sends the wrong messages to all sides.

But while the stats may be disappointing, our front page this week is sickening. For a senior woman in local government to be subjected to comments about her ‘good breeding hips’ is appalling. It’s unlikely a male counterpart would ever be subjected to similar inappropriate jibes.

Isabel Edgar Briancon may not have expected her Facebook post to garner such interest – and she has since deleted the post – but well done to her for highlighting what some women in the workplace have to endure.

It is just not good enough.

As lawyer Mark Greenburgh testifies, such incidents are widespread, but fear of the career-limiting consequences prevent people from speaking out – and non-disclosure agreements mask the extent of sexual discrimination in the sector.

Former Solace president – and now departed Doncaster chief executive – Jo Miller vowed to put diversity at the heart of her time at the helm of the society, and she did.

She called on chief executives to pay attention to diversity in all its forms and in Pride Month it is more important than ever.

That has got to start a zero tolerance approach to the behaviours experienced by Ms Edgar Briancon.

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