The Studio, Cannon St, Birmingham B2 5EP. 7.00pm until 8.45pm and in the pub afterwards.
Research for the Institute of Leadership and Management earlier this year indicated 73% of women believe the ‘glass ceiling’ still exists, and this is borne out particularly when it comes to top-level management jobs (only 12% of FTSE 100 directors are women). Despite this, women workers have made major strides since the Ford machinists’ strike led to the Equal Pay Act 1970, as dramatised in the recent film Made in Dagenham. While there are still chauvinists in the high-powered world of business who think women are best suited for administrative roles – if not the kitchen sink - in truth women no longer suffer the gross discrimination they once did. Most workplaces are desperate to recruit more women to senior positions, and even some feminists acknowledge it is women themselves who sometimes choose less demanding careers in order to take responsibility for their children, inevitably earning less money and prestige.
The very idea of equality in the workplace is no longer just about this one issue. The 238-page Equality Act 2010 is intended to protect workers against discrimination not only on the grounds of sex, but also race, age, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief and sexual orientation. Moreover, the act goes beyond prohibiting direct discrimination: employers will also be responsible for ‘perceived discrimination’ and ‘third-party harassment’. As one HR website explains: ‘If a heterosexual is perceived to be gay, lesbian or bisexual – perhaps because of mannerisms or rumours – and becomes the butt of banter’, or ‘if an employee is subjected to joking about their partner’s disability or a friend’s sexual orientation’, they have grounds for complaint. Should we welcome this as an extension of women’s struggle for equal treatment, or has the historic fight for equal rights at work now been reduced to policing one another’s comments and attitudes, and running off to the boss if colleagues indulge in un-PC banter?
Do the much quoted statistics on women failing to reach the top of the ladder really merit a fight for equality, or does a narrow focus on the top corporate jobs miss the point that different people make different choices? Should we, at the very least, focus more on practical obstacles like the lack of child-care options, rather than conjuring up misogynist employers and blaming supposedly sexist attitudes? Do we need to examine workplace issues through the historical prism of gender and oppression at all? Indeed, is equality something we should be worried about at the moment? In the middle of a recession, with public sector cuts and new redundancies announced daily, is arguing for workplace equality a non-starter? Or will women have a fight on their hands to ensure job cuts don’t undo the progress made over the past few decades? Which way forward for women at work?
Linda Bellos chair, Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners
Next Birmingham Salon: Have we got copyright wrong?
7.30pm Thursday 13th September at The Ropewalk, 15-20 St Paul’s Square, Birmingham B3 1QU
Is copyright a principle that is impossible to maintain in the modern world where reproduction is almost effortless? Should we take a pragmatic line and formulate alternative licensing and business models that are adaptive to the new realities of the digital age? Or should we, make a stand against the devaluation of works of art and entertainment as freebies, and defend the notion of social creations deserving of reward and accreditation? And as the British government prepares to make publicly available scientific research for everyone to read for free, are there separate principles involved in research literature on the one hand and artistic works on the other?
Two members of Birmingham Salon are taking part in Birmingham Opera Company's next production, the world premiere of Life is a Dream by composer, Jonathan Dove and writer, Alasdair Middleton. They have created a brand new, full length opera and they've used a legendary play by 17th century Spanish Playwright, Calderón. Artistic Director, Graham Vick, designer Samal Blak, and William Lacey from Leipzig Opera are in charge. Singers include British tenor, Paul Nilon as the King, Wendy Dawn Thompson (mezzo), Keel Watson (bass), Donna Bateman (soprano). They'll be joined by American tenor, Joseph Guyton who played Cassio in Othello and is a finalist in Germany's X Factor. Playing the role of Segismund is American baritone, Eric Greene. One member of the chorus, Niall Crowley, wrote this piece for Independent about the production and the company:
Opera for the masses, by the masses? By Niall Crowley In a disused tin-plate factory in a backstreet of Digbeth in Birmingham, an extra…
I am producing and chairing this discussion on our changing attitudes towards personal pleasure as part of the Battle of Ideas Festival at the Barbican Centre, London.
Drink, smoke, eat: prohibition today
Sunday 21 October, 5.00pm until 6.15pm, Garden Room Under the Spotlight
Are we entering a new prohibitionist era? Drinking and even smoking are still perfectly legal, but there is a palpable sense that they are less acceptable than they once were. Cigarettes have become far more expensive thanks to punitive taxes, and the authorities would like to do something similar with alcohol. The spread of ‘no drinking’ zones in public places also seems to follow the pattern of smoking bans, which now cover every indoor public space and many outdoor ones too. So are we witnessing prohibition by stealth? Instead of banning certain activities, is the state trying render them socially unacceptable?
Putting smokers beyond the social pale certainly seemed to be health secretary Andrew Lansley’s obje…