Friday, September 18, 2009

Lap dancing and pornography in the workplace undermines women's equality at work

Harriet Harman QC MP, Minster for Women gave a keynote speech as a report by the Fawcett Society, that demonstrated that the
use of lap dancing clubs and display of pornography in a work context is a major new threat to women's equality at work. The report is called "Corporate Sexism: the sex industry's infiltration of the modern workplace".

The report’s findings include:

• 41% of UK lap dancing clubs directly target employers through marketing on their websites (4)
• 86% of lap dancing clubs in London provide ‘discrete receipts’ which enable employees to claim back expenses from their employer without it being evident the money was spent in a lap dancing club (5)
• Lads’ mags are displayed for sale purposes in over 50,000 workplaces. A content analysis of leading titles revealed all contained pornographic imagery. Yet there are no independent, compulsory guidelines regarding the display and sale of pornography, and no major retailer has a policy of covering up lads’ mags or putting them on the top shelf
• 26% of trade unions have received enquiries from members who have been exposed to the sex industry – including pornography - at work (6). Existing research has also revealed that 20% of men admit accessing pornography at work (7).

The Fawcett Society's research reveals that the use of lap dancing clubs and display of pornography in a work context is seriously undermining women’s status at work and is in violation of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

Recommendations in the report include:
• Implementing independent regulation of sexually explicit print media
• Covering up lads’ mags and putting them on the top shelf when displayed in shops
• Implementing robust workplace policies and procedures to prevent pornography and lap dancing clubs being used in a work context

Kat Banyard, Campaigns Officer at the Fawcett Society and co-author of the report, said:
Despite relative silence on the issue within employer circles, our research shows that the sex industry is a major threat to women’s equality at work. For too long, employers have engaged with the sex industry without due regard for the impact on female employees, and have failed to prevent the illicit use of the sex industry by employees in a work context. But this is an issue that employer’s cannot afford to ignore.

The sex industry is increasingly targeting the corporate market, with lap dancing clubs marketing themselves as ideal venues to host meetings and client entertaining. Yet lap dancing clubs are a form of commercial sexual exploitation and fuel sexist attitudes towards women. Their use in a work context discriminates against female employees and undermines women’s status at work.

While the days when it was deemed acceptable to hang ‘girly calendars’ on office walls may be long gone, the presence of degrading imagery of women in UK workplaces has never been more endemic. Pornographic lads’ mags are openly displayed in over 50,000 retail shops – each one of them somebody’s workplace. But displaying these magazines in this way is in violation of the Sex Discrimination Act, so it is crucial that retail employers cover up pornographic newspapers and lads’ mags and place them on the top shelf.”

I once complained when a calenders from the local lap dancing bar was handed into my workplace, I made the union and my senior manager organise a meeting witht he councillor for the licencing committee. I was quite clear that as my employer ( I was a council worker) it was his responsibility to ensure that the Sex Discrimination Act was upheld and that he should not licence properties that undermine mine and the other women in the workplace equality.

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