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Harriet Harman: “Inequality and discrimination still persist”

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“It’s fantastic to see a government prepared to take this bull by its horns,” says Margaret Heffernan, who has run software and media firms in the UK and the States. “Promoting positive discrimination makes sense.”

But she warns that employers will have to show “real bottle” under the new bill. “They must not let disappointed pale, male candidates bully them into taking second best,” she says.

She reckons it will also be difficult for bosses to assess candidates objectively. “There’s the famous case of the German orchestra that always hired male players — until auditions were held behind screens! Only when assessing the work output alone were any women hired.

“The sad reality is that people hire others like themselves. It takes a lot of training and determination to stop that.

“Changing the numbers is the beginning – not the end – of the challenge. Let’s face it: tackling discrimination in the City will take nerves of steel.”

The proposed Equality Bill – due later this year – will be adopted in England, Wales and Scotland. Harman believes it will help Britain “compete in the global economy”.

“Just as schools have to publish exam results for parents to see, I want employers to report on key equality issues such as gender pay for employees to see.”

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