Socialist Party
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7 February 2018

Featured letter

Fighting sexism: Positive discrimination - yea or neigh?

It's 100 years since women in Britain won, through militant struggle, limited adult suffrage.

Yet, today, the media is replete with examples of sexual harassment and abuse of women, and a stubbornly persistent gender pay gap.

Sport is no exception, with the recent trial of notorious serial abuser Larry Nasser, the disgraced former US sports doctor, and widespread examples of the continuing gender pay gap in prize money, opportunities and media coverage afforded to sportswomen.

Such discrimination has recently surfaced in horse racing. A recent number-crunching study by the racing industry showed no difference in performance between female and male jockeys.

Yet male jockeys monopolise the top-graded rides. It's clear that sexual discrimination accounts for the huge gender gap in winning rides.

Interestingly, Galop, the French horse racing authority, has given a weight allowance - an advantage in handicap events - to rides of female jockeys. Unsurprisingly trainers have prioritised female jockeys to take advantage, and the number of successful female riders has soared by 165%.

It raises the question: is 'positive discrimination' the way forward to level the playing field?

Leading female jockeys Josephine Gordon and Hayley Turner say the French allowance belittles their efforts to compete with male riders, whereas French jockey Maryline Eon says the allowance has helped her progress in a notoriously chauvinistic industry.

Positive discrimination is not new and has been repeatedly debated in the labour movement. But has widespread gender discrimination in today's society resurrected its efficacy?

Simon Carter, Forest Gate, east London