The 11th July 2016 marked the appointment of Britain’s second female Prime Minister in history: Theresa May. A momentous occasion and great achievement for both Mrs May and for the UK, one would think. Yet, when her first day as Prime Minister arrived, the social importance of appointing a woman Prime Minister, let alone the policies her new cabinet would bring, were overshadowed in the media by depicting something completely irrelevant – the shoes she chose to wear. The fact that they opted to focus on and print a photo of her kitten-heels – an item of clothing that is inherently feminine – demeans such a milestone.
In the typically male-dominated political world, it was anticipated that, on becoming Prime Minister, Theresa would shake-up her cabinet. She certainly did not disappoint, eliminating some influential members, such as Michael Gove, and replacing them with women, like Liz Truss. Theresa’s cabinet is made up of 32% female members, compared to 24% of David Cameron’s. Although this is not yet gender-equal, Mrs. May is moving in the right direction. Other party leaders, such as David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn, have made a concerted (perhaps contrived) effort in the past to move towards a more gender-balanced cabinet, however the notable difference is that Theresa is giving her female members top-level roles. It is, in fact, the first cabinet ever to have a female Prime Minister and a female Home Secretary (Amber Rudd), as Margaret Thatcher was notoriously averse to working with females in her cabinet.
The appointment of a woman Prime Minister coincides with the recruitment of two new female employees at Whitescape in the past couple of months: myself and an Estimator in our Pre-Construction team. The Construction sector is renowned for being male-dominated; a stereotype we have come to expect. Typically, women are employed only in administrative roles in such male-dominated sectors: a deep-seated tradition that will take time to change.
Since working here however, it seems clear to me that Whitescape does not feel that this has to be the case. It’s understood here that employing a diverse workforce not only supports equality in the workplace, but also benefits the business by bringing people with varied skill sets together. This way, different approaches and perspectives contribute to their success. Therefore, it is an ongoing goal at Whitescape to appoint women in customer-facing roles, such as Estimator and indeed in trade and technical roles on site.
However, this raises the issue of positive gender discrimination. Did Theresa May choose to appoint Amber Rudd as her Home Secretary because of her ability to carry out the work most effectively, or because she is a woman? Did Whitescape employ a female Estimator solely to increase its percentage of female employees? I cannot speak on behalf of the Prime Minister, but multiple candidates were certainly interviewed for the position of Estimator at Whitescape, and the result of these interviews was that the best candidate was offered the position. She just happened to be a woman. And I regret to inform you that neither I, nor my colleagues, would be able to tell you what shoes she wore on her first day.
Whitescape Ventures Limited