Standing up to discrimination is not the same as ‘whingeing’

Labour Party

Veteran TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh hit the headlines this week when he reportedly said: “women presenters should stop ‘whingeing’ about being passed over once they reach a certain age,” and went on to suggest that they fare better than men earlier in their careers.

Alan Titchmarsh enjoyed success in his 30s when he presented Gardeners’ World, and now in his 60s he has a string of regular and successful presenting slots.

But he accused those who make a stand against the rife age discrimination they face of whingeing. “I’d like to see a mix of all ages on TV and wish there could be less whingeing about it,” he said.

His comments, and specifically the term ‘whingeing’, illustrate perfectly the level of sexism faced by older women in the industry. If whingeing means bravely standing up to organisations which are guilty of sexism towards women then I would suggest this needs to be commended –  how else is this unacceptable behaviour going to change? The message needs to be reinforced and I applaud women like Miriam O’ Reilly who was sacked by BBC executives as the Country File presenter and subsequently won an age discrimination case against the corporation.

The interview with Titchmarsh was published in the same week that the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee met to discuss the obstacles faced by women striving to sit on company boards. The Committee is working hard along with representatives of national parliaments to tackle the low numbers of women in top positions on company boards. Different approaches are being applied by national parliaments, but the Committee is striving to remove barriers in every country across the European Union.

Investing efforts in this way and continuously ‘banging on the door’ will help encourage more women achieve parity in the boardroom but also it may change attitudes towards age discrimination. In addition  unacceptable comments made by well thought of presenters and others will, in time, be a thing of the past.