Is everyday sexism really a legal issue?

My blog post and outraged response to the Guardian’s Dear Jeremy column back in May, remains one of my most read and shared.

Here’s a reminder if you missed it

Many of you have asked me if I ever received a reply. Well yes I did. But it was so disappointing that it just outraged me even more.

Fortunately I had a kick-boxing class to take it out on.

So here it is, the official response from the Guardian.

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From: Readers editor –

Date: 13 May 2015 at 15.21

Thank you for your email about the Jeremy Bullmore column, which was forwarded to this department. We received a number of emails about this column and have discussed them with both Bullmore and his section editors. Bullmore says that he does make clear that he is not qualified to deal with matters of employment law, and that much of the advice he offers every week is along the lines that mutual understanding leads to happier outcomes than immediate recourse to the law. 

However, he recognises the points you make in your email, and his section editors will be keeping a closer eye on the column in future.

Best wishes

Barbara Harper


Never has the hashtag #everydaysexism been more appropriate than now.

Does anyone truly need to be an expert or qualified in employment law to know whether something is sexist or not? Absolutely not.

So Dear Jeremy doesn’t think his reply is sexist and I’m afraid Dear Reader neither does his Editor. Whilst the role of a columnist is to give their personal view – and court controversy – I believe that in this case, the Guardian has a responsibility and a vicarious liability to comply with the Equality Act and ensure others do as well. I hate to say it, but this editorial team needs some equalities training.

This response is especially disappointing as it comes after Katherine Viner was appointed as editor-in-chief of the Guardian. The first woman to run the newspaper in its 194-year history. One assumes that the competitive selection process she won, beating 25 other candidates, didn’t ask her gender specific questions or assume she was less capable of committing to and doing a good job because she was female?

Commenting on her appointment, Viner said “I intend to lead a media organisation that is bold, challenging, open and engaging.

This particular reader isn’t seeing much evidence of that yet.

True equality in 2015 still seems to be aspirational rather than achievable or just the norm. We have to do much more about this if we are not to see whole generations of women under achieving because of the unconscious bias that is the foundation of the workplace.

If you’d like to do something about it, contact me.