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Lockdown Sexism: Women experience discrimination in video meetings

Lockdown Sexism:  Women experience discrimination in video meetings


According to a recent poll featured by People Management, of 2,000 office-based staff working from home during the pandemic, 35% of women reported experiencing at least one sexist demand from their employer since lockdown started in March, with the most common offence being inappropriate comments about the way they dressed for video meetings.

  • A staggering 34% were asked to wear more make-up or do something to their hair

  • 27% were asked to dress more provocatively


Of those who were told to dress more provocatively, 41% said their boss justified the request by saying it could ‘help win business’, with the same proportion reporting being told it was important to ‘look nice for the team’. Similarly, 38% were told dressing up would be more ‘pleasing to a client’.

  • Of those subjected to such requests, 60% did not report the comment to HR and a quarter agreed to the request

The poll showed 33% of women found it difficult to challenge such behaviour – they worried it would look like they ‘couldn’t take a joke’ if they called out the sexism – while 24% said they were concerned about the impact on their career if they refused to comply. In fact, a third of both men and women said they ‘put up with’ comments about their appearance made during video calls that they would not have in person.

  • Nearly 40% of women said demands were targeted at them or other women, rather than equally with their male peers.

Vaishali Thakerar

Vaishali Thakerar, Associate Director at Lawson-West Solicitors and Head of the Employment team added:

"The genre of video meetings opens-up a whole new opportunity for sexism and discrimination to raise its head during Coronavirus. Some people don’t realise that the same rules apply whether it is a face-to-face meeting in the office, or the meeting is held online. Even if the digital meeting does feel more informal, and some staff are dressed in non-work clothes, the laws of discrimination still stand. Think twice before you make personal comments about someone’s appearance or you could find yourself speaking to HR!

…and if you are on the receiving end of a discriminatory jibe or sexist comment online that you find personally offensive, you should definitely speak to your HR team about it immediately.”

You can contact Vaishali Thakerar on vthakerar@lawson.west.co.uk for an impartial view on any form of sexism or discrimination.  

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