Clare Scanlan
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Why Men-Only Events?

Sex Discrimination or Lads' Night Out?

Since the scandal of hostesses allegedly being sexually abused at the Presidents Club dinner, the question has now arisen as to whether men-only events are acceptable in this day and age.

There would be outrage if there was a whites-only event or an able-bodied event even if there was no suggestion of sexual abuse of people who were working at these events. I’m sure there are many good reasons for having men-only events or clubs where men get together in a safe space to discuss issues that only affect men, such as testicular cancer survivors. Single sex events, it could be said, mean that people can speak out without fear of being judged.

However, I am thinking about men-only events, for any reason, where women are hired as “hostesses” and the guests think it is acceptable to sexually abuse them. Does it make it any more acceptable if the main purpose of these events is to raise desperately needed money for a charity? Is it only because of these hostesses that the event has been criticised, or because it was a men-only event?

It could be said that these events that allow businessmen and politicians to network are defensible. However, women need to be able to have the same chance to network, too. In my opinion, encouraging men to network without women is discrimination against women and is holding women back from being able to gain the power needed to make the important decisions that affect our way of life in the United Kingdom.

Throughout history, the main purpose of men-only spaces has been to exclude women from power. It is hard enough for women to reach the top in business without being excluded from events where the top business people network. Women are still expected—and still want to—provide the caring roll within the family, so women are at a disadvantage without being excluded from events which are men-only. Men are trying to hold onto the power that they have always felt they have a right to.

Is it that there are simply not enough women at the top level in business to join these events, meaning that top level business events are men-only? But why aren’t there enough women? Only 27.7 percent of the boardroom executives in FTSE 100 companies are women. Is it because the people who appoint the executives are the same men who go to men-only events like the Presidents Club dinner?

When there are men-only events like The Presidents Club dinner where alcohol is served and hostesses are employed and have to wear sexy outfits, won’t this encourage the men to sexually abuse the hostesses, even though the real intention is more to make the men show off by donating more money?

The Sex Discrimination Act was passed in 1975 and is supposed to make it illegal for men and women to be discriminated against on the basis of their sex, yet over 40 years on, there are still events where women are being discriminated against. The act doesn’t cover private clubs, where it is still legal to have different membership rules for women. The Equality Act of 2010, however, does make it illegal for some private clubs to allow discrimination, harassment, and the victimisation of women (and other classes of person).

Men-only events seem to be either an excuse for the rich and powerful to behave like drunken louts on a stag night or else to exclude women from networking with the men and becoming part of the power base that run the biggest businesses in the country and the government, and so affect us all.

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