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Misogyny in politics reflects the experience of female founders

Last month, as the world celebrated another International Women’s Day, and social media channels were awash with campaigns built around hashtags about breaking the bias, a couple of campaigners took to Twitter to highlight the hypocrisy of much of this activity, using the simple device of sharing their current gender pay gap information for brands posting about IWD and breaking the bias.

While it was refreshing to see such hypocrisy shown up, it was depressing how much of it there was to show up. This week’s story about deputy leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner, similarly highlighted the extent that misogyny remains deep-rooted and systemic, adding its considerable reek to the already poisonous stench emanating from the Palace of Westminster. That stench has since been added to, with a growing collection of ever-more poisonous stories, including allegations of an MP watching porn on the backbenches.

To witness a major national newspaper run a tawdry story about a senior female politician, whose crimes seem to amount to sitting in the seat in the House of Commons allocated to her role by convention, wearing some clothes, having two legs and being a woman, was depressing. It’s a powerful example of the worst kind of conscious misogyny (let’s not pretend there was anything unconscious about it), and it’s depressing it is thriving in 2022.

Sadly, it isn’t limited to politics. Two recent articles present an interesting case for how widespread the problem remains for female founders looking to do nothing more than grow a business. The first was about some work done by Labour’s Annaliese Dodds in advance of IWD, which gathered research and data to show how businesses run by women outperform their male-driven peers. Bravo. So why does all the evidence, as reported in this piece, show that female founders find it significantly harder to raise finance? There’s only one answer and that’s the same reason that politics and journalism remain mired in the male hegemony.

There has been a lot of noise this week about misogyny and how it needs to be called out and rooted out in all walks of life. One way to do this is to capture and use data to measure what is happening, as opposed to what we think is happening. Data trumps perception. As with the gender pay gap data being weaponised to call out the hypocrisy of IWD campaigns, data like that gathered by the Gender Index is the best place to start. And maybe soon we will have something genuine to celebrate on IWD.