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Girls are “Babes” and boys are “Leaders” according to Clarks the shoe shop.

In the latest example of gender stereotyping when it comes to children’s clothing Clarks have excelled themselves.

Glasgow Employment LawyerClarks are (were) selling “Dolly Babe” shoes for girls whereas the equivalent boys version is named “Leader”.  Both shoes are leather but the “Dolly Babe” has a pink insole with love heart print whereas the boys version has a football on it.

It is truly astounding that in 2017 one of the leading brands of kids shoes would fall into this typical stereotyping that girls are judged on their looks (Babe) whereas boys are “Leaders”. It is really is so awful I am shocked that they shoes got as far as the shop floor.

Girls are conditioned from a very young age not to challenge, not to lead but instead to behave “like a lady” and act “like a princess”. When girls try to lead they are often labelled “bossy”. This does not happen with boys, as leadership skills are expected, and encouraged. (Yes, I was called bossy at school!)

Undoubtedly these stereotypes and conditioning follow us into adult life where it is statistically proven that success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump; Nicola Sturgeon & Alex Salmond to name but a few comparisons where exceptionally competent, qualified and talented women are seen as cold, ambitious and unlikable when compared with their less qualified, less competent but more fun and “up for a laugh” male counterparts.  

The result of these perceptions is clear. Men still rule the world.

After this year’s General Election the proportion of women MPs in the House of Commons was at a record high. 32%....

While in the corporate world women only hold 21% of senior executive positions in the UK and 23.5% of board seats in FTSE 100 companies.

None of these figures are near 50%.

Progress on the gender pay gap is still painfully slow with women in the UK earning, on average, 18.1% for all workers, or 9.4% for full-time staff less than their male equivalents.

So, the furore over the sexist Clarks shoes may seem glib and unimportant to some, just the latest example of political correctness gone mad. However, it is important and there is a responsibility on all of us to challenge gender stereotyping when we see it.

The figures speak for themselves, women are being held back from a young age by cultural expectations of how they are expected to look and behave. The result of this are deeply gender segregated workplaces and a huge power imbalance of men at the top and women at the bottom. This is not something that any progressive would wish to see or promote.

Clarks have removed the sale of the “Dolly Babe” shoe but the “Leader” remains on sale. Hopefully a lesson has been learned and a warning shot sent across other companies who promote this kind of sexism in their products.

Blog by Jillian Merchant, employment lawyer Glasgow

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