All-male clubs hit the headlines every so often. Muirfield made news when it lost its right to hold golf’s Open as it chose to remain a men-only club. A private club admitting only men, while behind the times, is nothing new. But the Presidents Club Charity Dinner was different. The groping, harassment and appalling treatment reportedly suffered by the hostesses has rightly taken centre stage.
However there are additional questions for the sponsors who hosted tables. How can these businesses justify such high-level networking opportunities that are completely unavailable to female employees? It would be interesting to see how many of the high earners within these companies are women and how their pay compares with their male colleagues who hosted the tables or attended the event. If networks and client relationships are forged in this type of environment, it is difficult to see how women can ever become properly established at a senior level. The gender pay gap reporting requirements, when viewed alongside this type of event, may cast a sliver of light on the problem within larger organisations.
This event, running for more than 30 years, highlights the uneven playing field encountered by women at work. Its aftermath, following big media scandals and the #MeToo movement, might herald a crumbling of the accepted and complicit silence protecting a male and powerful hierarchy. We will have to wait and see where this will go. Perhaps businesses will now think twice before sponsoring, or accepting invitations to attend, events that overtly exclude female employees. It is hard to escape the depressing conclusion that we appear to be starting from a very low point in January 2018.
Louise Skehan, employment partner, McCarthy Denning