Catherine Mayer Speaks Out On Endemic Sexual Harassment of Women in the Media

Catherine Mayer Speaks Out On Endemic Sexual Harassment of Women in the Media

Author and politician Catherine Mayer believes sexual harassment of women in the media remains “pretty much endemic”.

 “I literally don’t know any women in journalism who do not have stories of being sexually harassed by the people that they interview, the people that they work with,” she said at the Book Festival today. “It is tempting to say that things have got better – and they have in some ways – but the fact is it is still pretty much endemic.”

Mayer, a journalist and co-founder of Women’s Equality Party (WEP), said she had assumed the problem would diminish as she got older, but Westminster was “so full of randy old goats that it doesn’t matter how old you get, there is still going to be somebody older to harass you”.

She was in discussion with event chair Ruth Wishart about her new book, Attack of the 50 Ft Women: How Gender Equality Can Save The World!, but also spoke about politics, saying that fundraising for the WEP was “a nightmare”, and her recent decision to take legal action against her former employer Time magazine on grounds of age and gender discrimination.

Wishart asked Mayer about the ongoing row concerning BBC pay. “It matters hugely, matters hugely on a number of levels,” she replied. “It matters within the BBC clearly, it matters as a way of looking at the gender pay gap…it matters because it’s in the BBC we’ve been able now to see it clearly because of the figures, however fragmentary they are, which have shown what is going on in the BBC to a certain extent.

“One thing one can know fairly certainly is if and when more figures come out, it’s just going to confirm and add detail to that picture, it’s not going to change it in any significant way.”

And referring to a recent Book Festival event in which former Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman said female colleagues were at fault for not negotiating better pay, Mayer said: “God bless Jeremy Paxman for illustrating the kinds of attitudes that mean that this problem persists.

“I have great respect for Jeremy Paxman as a broadcaster, but his job has mostly been extracting opinions from other people rather than giving his own opinion, and perhaps he ought to stick to that.”

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