Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Gender issues need to be addressed

The US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was upset when she was asked about the thoughts of President Obama. Unfortunately it got translated as what were the thoughts of her husband. Hilary answered that she was the Secretary of State, not her husband, but the main point is that she was irritated by the question. Politicians are supposed to remain calm when questioned so regardless of the subject of the original question we found out that Hilary's public face can be one of annoyance. Even if the question had been about her husband she could have calmly answered that she cannot speak for him.

This reminded me of Any Questions last week. Judith Hackitt is chair of the Health and Safety Executive and she works to prevent injury in the workplace. There is a lot I could say about the HSE but I'll confine myself to one comment on the programme. There was a question about Harriet Harman's role when Gordon Brown was away. Was the gender balance correct? Judith told us that she wanted a meritocracy but there was a caveat. Even though she had risen to a high rank, she could still be ignored at meetings and there are cultural issues that need to be addressed. The next comment was from a man and I hope the irony was not missed. He simply said that he would return to the original question, thus ignoring Judith's point that she can be ignored. I thought it was the stuff of comedy programmes, and with a little adapting you could also use the Hilary Clinton response for a comedy sketch.

I think we do still need to actively work for gender equality but let's not lose the ability to laugh at irony.

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