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Sexism in the media – how is it affecting your career?

Posted by
18 Jul 2014

The latest cabinet reshuffle has created a whirlwind of coverage since it happened on Tuesday, but the ongoing story has not been the ousting of senior Conservative figures or the controversial Education Secretary, it has been the way in which the Daily Mail reported this news.

The newspaper's reporting as ten female politicians were promoted within the cabinet, included a two page spread on their fashion choices and has been deemed "sexist” and "out of date” by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and has sparked outrage and discussion.

Remarks in the paper included that Liz Truss, the Environment Secretary looked "a little bit too 80s air hostess" and that Esther McVey was showing too much thigh.

McVey said of the piece "If it takes a photo of some women getting a new job to start a whole generation of new young girls talking about what jobs 'I can do' then that's fine by me.". On BBC News, Labour MP Luciana Berger suggested that the message was presented in this way because only 23% of MPs were female and it was only likely to change with an increase in women in parliament. When questioned further about general portrayals of women in the media, for instance at red carpet events, it was brushed off as 'that's showbiz'.

But it isn't, is it?

Because gossip magazines and websites are read by huge numbers. The Daily Mail's 'Mail Online' gossip pages are some of the most widely read content in the world - the sidebar of shame being a lunchtime distraction for many people everyday. Articles which are crammed full of judgements, criticism and even outrage over the way women dress, the way they act and the way they behave. Magazine editors are judge and jury, often without allowing any counter opinion, which creates a pressure to conform that is often associated with teenagers, but in reality this is no longer reserved to the playground.

Whilst our opinions and behaviours are learnt at this early age, the pressure only increases as the media becomes more scathing. US research found that 70% of women felt depressed, guilty and shameful after reading a fashion magazine for three minutes.

So what is the knock on affect to business? Almost a decade ago now legislation changed to ensure employers could not judge a prospective employee on their age, ethnic background or disability, but when it comes to an interview, appearance is a huge part of the scrutiny placed on you. The person recruiting is exposed to the same news as everyone else, and their expectation of how a person 'should' appear is impacted by the media and its judgements on women.

According to research conducted last year by UK retailer Escentual, 68% of bosses wouldn't hire or promote a woman who didn't wear make up.

As a recruitment business, it is vital to us that we find the right candidate for the businesses we work with. This means our consultants spend much of their time reviewing CVs and speaking with potential recruits over the phone. Our teams get to know people, ensuring that they are capable to excel in the job and will fit into the team.

I can't help but feel this is a much fairer way to employ people, understanding their abilities and personality, before judging their appearance. Until the media becomes a less sexist and objectifying process, this seems the only way to ensure fairness for women in work.

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