Editor's Blog

Why men need to move on in the gender debate
“Looking forward to when Fast Forward 15 is opened up to male members of our industry to remove the current discriminatory bias.”

Sigh. Right, here we go again.

The above comment is from a man in our industry, expressing his view on Fay Sharpe’s women-only mentoring programme Fast Forward 15. Ever since it launched three years ago, the scheme has been attacked with depressing regularity from people within the industry – usually men - as being discriminatory.

This would be a valid argument if we lived in a society where men and women are treated equally and are presented with the same opportunities. However, we do not. The news over the last month or so has provided plenty of evidence of this.

The biggest story has been at the BBC, when it emerged that two-thirds of its highest-paid stars are men. The list of the corporation’s biggest earners reveals that women at the BBC are routinely being paid less than men, often while doing the exact same job.

This came just days after the actor Jodie Whittaker was announced as the new Doctor Who, the first woman to play the role. The furore that followed was as depressing as it was predictable, with a sizeable number of people expressing disgust and dismay that a woman would be allowed to portray a fictional alien.

The Sun and the Mail Online also decided to mark Whittaker’s appointment by publishing nude photographs of her from previous roles, something that I don’t recall happening on the announcement of any of the 12 men that previously played the role.

Earlier in July the UK’s Brexit negotiating team came under fire when it was revealed that only one woman in the nine-strong team was sent to Brussels to thrash out the country’s future relationship with the EU.

And the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, also received criticism after allegedly claiming that driving a train is so easy that “even a woman can do it”. The story emerged after a leak from a Cabinet meeting; it’s worth remembering that the Cabinet is 22 per cent women, in a government that is 32 per cent women, in a country that is 51 per cent women.

Underrepresentation, underpayment, belittlement and downright misogyny; and all from less than a month of news. In this context, it’s absolutely clear why Fast Forward 15 is needed.

Yes, of course the programme is biased in favour of women. Because so much of society, from politics to entertainment, is biased against women.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Fay Sharpe to carry out research for the Women in Events feature in the September issue of M&IT. The survey has already received record levels of responses from readers, so should give us a good idea of what the current situation is in our industry. The aim of the feature is to achieve a deeper understanding of the makeup of our workforce, including our leaders and whether there is still a salary disparity.

My colleague Emma Channon is writing the feature, not me, so I have no idea what the feature is going to conclude. But I dearly hope that whatever the findings, men in the industry will sit up, take notice and stop parroting the same old tired non-arguments every time the issue of gender is raised.

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