Clarity of language is the foundation of sex-based rights

@LaMarquiseDeMe3 says it’s time to stop muddying the waters over words we all understand

For more than 25 years, I’ve worked in investment banking and asset management, an industry not known for being particularly female friendly, certainly at senior levels.

For most of the 2000s, I worked on the trading floor of an international investment bank in the City where being a feminist was not something to boast about. A lot of socialising with clients was done on the golf course and, yes, even in strip clubs.

It often felt that, to get along, you had to leave your feminist principles at the door.

Back then, companies were just beginning to wake up to the idea of “diversity”, and many a reluctant trader was sent off to examine their unconscious bias, only to return to the desk unrepentant.

I think the recent introduction of “gender” pay gap reporting has focused the minds of those in charge in the industry. Although there is currently no penalty for failing to report, many companies are seeing their clients asking questions about their pay gap and what they are doing to improve it.

This is part of the wider move towards ethical investing and might be a powerful incentive for serious, albeit slow, change in the sector.

No confusion over what a woman is

My first job was with a Japanese investment bank who shipped in pornography from back home for men to read in the overseas office. In those simpler times, there was no confusion over what a woman was.

Fast forward to 2018 and Pip Bunce, a male senior director at a City investment bank who comes to work in a dress and wig for part of the week, is awarded a place on the Top 100 Women in Business list.

In 2021 a female Scottish MP agrees that a management board made up of 50 percent men and 50 percent trans-identified males would represent equality!

When I mentioned this to my MSP, in the context of Johann Lamont’s “six words” amendment to the Forensic Medical Services Bill, he thought the language itself was not important. I disagree: the language is crucial.

The Financial Conduct Authority, the regulator for the financial service industry, struggles with the language in its own pay gap reporting, using the phrase “identifies as female” and listing “gender” rather than “sex” as a protected characteristic. If the regulator can’t get the language right, is it any wonder we end up with males displacing women on top 100 female lists.

Politicians must commit to Equality Act exemptions

Using the correct language might seem trivial, but it’s the foundation of our sex-based rights. Any confusion or attempt to muddy the waters makes it easier to justify including males in female-only spaces under the guise of inclusivity.

We must continue to insist on clarity, demand that politicians (I’m looking at you, Patrick Harvie) tell us exactly who they mean when they talk about women’s rights. We must insist that all political parties commit to supporting the single-sex exemptions as defined in the Equality Act 2010.

We must return to a time when the word “woman” means adult human female.

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