Nicola Thorp holds a pair of black high heel shoes. Image credit SWNS

What’s the big heel? Update #3

Despite all of the political turmoil and unrest that is happening in the world, I recently received an email from the Petitions team of the UK Government and Parliament with some promising news. The petition set up by Nicola Thorp in May 2016, “make it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work”, will be debated by Parliament on 6th March this year.

After an inquiry was made by Parliament, and a joint report was published by the Petitions Committee and the Women and Equalities Committee, it has been recognised that urgent action needs to be taken in order to improve the effectiveness of the Equality Act 2010. The act of Thorp being sent home from work for not wearing high heels was illegal however, she has not been the only person to face discrimination due to enforced dress codes. An online forum on the Parliament website where people could share their experiences was set up in June to help MPs investigate into the issue of dress codes. It revealed that many women suffered pain from wearing high heels shoes for long periods of time, as well as “women who had been required to dye their hair blonde, to wear revealing outfits and to constantly reapply make-up.” This proves that the Equality Act is not effective enough in preventing employees from facing discrimination.

Overall, the report calls for:

  • the Government to take urgent action to improve the effectiveness of the Equality Act. It recommends that the Government reviews this area of the law and, if necessary, asks Parliament to amend it.

  • more effective remedies—such as increased financial penalties—for employment tribunals to award against employers who breach the law, in order to provide an effective deterrent.

  • the Government to introduce guidance and awareness campaigns targeted at employers, workers and students, to improve understanding of the law and workers’ rights.

You can read the full report on the Parliament website. It is split into several sections, addressing the issue of dress codes, examples of the damage to women’s health from wearing high heel shoes at work, and how the law does and should work in practice.

I can imagine that Thorp is absolutely thrilled that the petition she set up is being debated in Parliament next month. 152,420 people signed the petition, which clearly shows how discriminatory dress codes is an issue in the UK. She fully supports the report and its findings. On the Parliament website Thorp addresses the importance of how the law should be amended:

“The current system favours the employer, and is failing employees. It is crucial that the law is amended so that gender neutral dress codes become the norm, so that they do not exacerbate discrimination against the LGBTQ communities and those who do not conform to gender stereotypes.”

The debate will happen at 4:30pm on Monday 6th March. You can watch the debate live here. If you are interested in watching a debate that happened recently, then you can watch Nicola Thorp on Good Morning Britain clashing with Piers Morgan over the issue of sexist and outdated dress codes.

Cover image which has a series of photo booth style images of the voices of the show and the logo with reads Boxed Wine and Bullshit.
Video

Video: Boxed Wine and Bullshit

Last week one of my favourite YouTube channels brought their first season to a close, so it’s time to share it with you all and give the show the shout out it deserves.

Boxed Wine & Bullshit is four outspoken college grads who come together every week to get drunk on Boxed Wine & talk about the Bullshit. They’ve talked about everything from cultural appropriation, relationships, racism, gender roles, sexuality, self identity, and more, all with some witty banter and laughter throughout.

I’ve learned a lot from every episode, and hearing different voices and stories is an incredible experience to be a part of. But the thing I appreciate the most is that BW&BS shows us how to talk about some of the tougher topics, those many people shy away from, or issues they won’t call people out on publicly. Yet here we get four voices (sometimes more with special guests!) who all speak with such intelligence and a confidence to share their lived experiences, but who still continue to question and learn from each other. It shows how important it is to not be afraid to speak up when something offends you, or you think someone could be more respectful and inclusive, and even the importance of being able to admit when there are certain conversations you’re not a part of, or need to further educate yourself on.

Check out the series on YouTube and while we wait for the next season, be sure to follow their personal channels, and find your own chance to talk about the Bullshit – with or without the boxed wine!

Voices of BW&BS
Catherine Simone 
Christian Covington 
Sophia Lovella
Ashley Wylde

 

Nicola Thorp holds a pair of black high heel shoes. Image credit SWNS

What’s the big heel? Update #2

It was back in May this year when Nichola Thorp set up an online petition to make it illegal for companies to require women to wear high heels at work, after she was sent home from her first day at her new job for not wearing high heel shoes. This story dominated the news for a short while, but put into perspective how UK company dress codes are outdated.

Since it was set up, the petition has received over 150,000 signatures. I signed the petition and as a result, I received an email from the Petitions team within the UK Government and Parliament. This email stated that they would investigate this petition and a forum was set up on their website, to allow people to share their experiences and views of high heel shoes as part of company dress codes. The deadline for people to make their voice heard was the 16th June.

It’s been a quiet since then, but I had a look at the petition website recently and noticed that the Government Equalities has issued a response. It doesn’t say on the website when this response was posted, neither did I see or hear about this on the news. Anyhow, the response begins with the following:

“Company dress codes must be reasonable and must make equivalent requirements for men and women. This is the law and employers must abide by it.”

This indicates the importance of equality in dress codes for men and women and that employees should feel comfortable within the workplace. It is interesting to note though that it is already illegal, according to the Government, for employers to enforce unreasonable dress codes on employees. This clearly means that more needs to be done to stop companies from imposing outdated and sexist dress codes.

Shortly after the opening of the response follows how the Equalities Office is still aiming to achieve equality for women in the workplace, mentioning about the gender pay gap, increasing support for childcare costs, and making sure employers are aware of the rights for pregnant women. Thorp’s petition therefore reminds us how women still face inequalities within the workplace even though more women than ever before now work for a living.

There has not yet been a response from Parliament for when a debate date will be set. It should happen in the future since Thorp’s petition has more than 100,00 signatures. I will keep an eye on the petition’s website, since the Equalities’ Office response was kept very quiet.

What it REALLY means to be a female in the engineering industry

As emphasis continues to be placed on the lack of females embarking upon STEM careers, CV-Library set out to explore what it really means to be a woman in today’s engineering industry, and perhaps unsurprisingly discovered tales of gender discrimination, inequality and a whole lot of workplace discontent.

Surveying over 500 female engineers from across the UK, the research has brought some alarming discoveries to light, not least the fact that a staggering 73.2% of women in the industry feel that gender discrimination is still alive and well within the profession. In fact, when it comes to women breaking through the glass ceiling, almost two thirds (63.3%) of those surveyed felt that they had unfairly missed out on job opportunities to their male colleagues, simply highlighting the gender gap that is still prominent in the sector.

And in more damaging news for the pipeline of female talent into the industry, over two-thirds (68.3%) of women engineers believe that the men in the sector actually encourage this discrimination; though whether this behaviour is subconscious remains to be seen. What is clear though is that steps must be taken to encourage more women into the profession, and breaking down gender barriers should be a priority.

Infographic on Women in Engineering by CV-Library

Furthermore, these gender constraints appear to be contributing to the lack of female engineering professionals, with over half (56.5%) saying they felt engineering was still viewed as a ‘male’ profession; coming forward to share her story, Ashley from London believes that:

Men are given far more encouragement to pursue a career in engineering than women are. Females are often encouraged to follow careers which are traditionally ‘female’ such as nursery work, childcare, beauty etc.”

While Laura from Bristol made a shocking revelation: “I was told that because I am a woman, I will not be promoted, and that my place is at home with children.”

Worryingly, this attitude appears to be all too common amongst engineering employers; despite more importance than ever before being placed on a healthy work-life balance, many women who opt to have a family and a career often find it difficult to get back into the field. Many females in the industry spoke openly about the challenges they’ve encountered as a direct result of choosing to ‘have it all’, facing discrimination that’s often avoided by their male colleagues, and watching their careers suffer as a result.

However, it’s not all bad news! While the UK’s female engineers are undoubtedly up against significant challenges, the professionals surveyed do feel that there are steps that can and should be taken to eliminate gender inequality, including but not limited to:

  • Profiling female role models in the sector: Celebrating success stories could contribute positively, as 4% believe that there’s a lack of understanding amongst females around engineering and what it entails
  • Actively promoting diversity: Nearly half (4%) believe sector organisations working together to promote gender diversity and equality would raise the profile of women in engineering
  • Promotion within the education system: Almost two thirds (60.4%) believe engineering-based subjects should be offered in schools
  • Raising awareness of opportunities: More profile-raising and education on the study and application of engineering would encourage women to enter the industry, according to 9% of female engineers

Ultimately, women make a vital contribution to the industry, and this shouldn’t be overlooked. Females are still the minority in this sector, and the sad reality is that many will be deterred from entering the field unless more is done to tackle gender discrimination and promote equality.

Thank you to Sarah Hannah at CV-Library for this guest post! If you would like to contribute to Viral Feminism please get in touch at viralfeminism@gmail.com. 

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Share your views on gender discrimination within the engineering industry in the comments below or on Twitter using #ViralFeminism.

 

Ghostbusters: Funny AND Feminist

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Even before its release in cinemas, the new Ghostbusters was controversial. The trailer was the most disliked video ever on YouTube, and many fans of the original were passionately against the new film, even before they’d seen it. 

But why?? There are SO many beloved films that are (or will be) remade. Why did Ghostbusters generate such hate, before anyone had even seen it? Many thought the reason was this: the original ghostbusters were men, the new ghostbusters are women.

But regardless of this, is the new film any good?

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The new Ghostbusters is more reboot then sequel. It stays true to the science, mythology and tone of the original, but that’s about it. Sure, there are AWESOME cameos by certain actors, but not in the way you’d expect. Apart from that, the new Ghostbusters very much stands as its own film. The plot is certainly not revolutionary, and it doesn’t stray far from the standard troupes of its genre. Instead the writers, Paul Feig and Kate Dippold, have weaved humour, great characters and the signature ghostbusters creepiness and created a story that seems fresh and exciting and yet also comfortingly familiar.

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The heart of the movie centres around the relationship Abby, played by Melissa McCarthy, and Erin, Kristen Wiig. Childhood friends, and co-writers of a book that proclaims the existence of ghosts, at the beginning of the movie their lives have gone in very different directions. Erin, played to awkward perfection by Wiig, is trying to erase her past as a ghost believer in order to further her academic career at Columbia University. Abby is still investigating the paranormal. Over the course of the movie the strength of their friendship and trust in one another is constantly tested. The focus on female friendship in such a blockbuster movie was great, and I really enjoyed seeing McCarthy and Wiig play off one another. 

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However, it is Kate McKinnon who steals the show as the brilliant Holtzmann, Abby’s friend and engineer. Whilst Holtzmann doesn’t have a character arc as such, McKinnon infuses her with so much fun and weirdness that it almost doesn’t matter. Rounding out the team is Leslie Jones as Patty, another scene stealer. Whilst the trailers depicted Leslie’s character as very one-noted and many have criticised Patty as being a stereotype, Leslie was talented enough to round out this character. However, it would’ve been great if the POC main character had been a scientist like the white characters were.

There were some other stand-out roles. Chris Hemsworth playing a secretary was a stroke of genius, and Hemsworth really committed to this role. Neil Casey played Rowan, our villain, to hilarious perfection—he was basically your average internet troll. In fact, what was funny throughout the movie was the subtle digs Ghostbusters took at the haters. Nicely played, Feig and Dippold.

The main thing I took away from Ghostbusters was this: it was really, really fun, The jokes were hilarious, the cast was top notch and the story tight and entertaining. It’s a great film—a film that I will probably have to buy and watch again and again.

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And here’s the thing. If you loved Ghostbusters as a child (like me), and watched the film again and again, you’ll probably like the reboot. And even if you don’t—even if you think the plot is stale and the jokes are bad—think about how many girls are going to watch that movie and be inspired that girls can be ghostbusters too. Surely, that’s a good, positive step in the right direction. I find it interesting, and slightly sad, that men are more likely to hate the new Ghostbusters.

So my final word on Ghostbusters is this: It’s a funny, well written, action packed film that happens to have four women main characters. Go see it. 

Images: Ghostbusters 2016/Sony/CTMG