Ayesha Hazarika: Would President Winfrey save us from gender inequality?

Oprah Winfrey is facing calls to run for the US presidency (Picture: Invision/AP)
Oprah Winfrey is facing calls to run for the US presidency (Picture: Invision/AP)
0
Have your say

As usual, on Monday we woke up to headlines dominated by a power hungry American reality television star, but thankfully it wasn’t the Donald.

Oprah Winfrey absolutely killed it at the Golden Globes when she received the Cecil B DeMille award on Sunday night. She electrified the audience and the world with a speech which beamed with lyrical beauty, intelligence, values, history and hope. She nailed every public speaking lesson there is to learn. I mean, it wasn’t as good as yelling “I am a stable genius” and I’m not sure how big her button is, but you can’t have it all.

After we watched her speech on our tablets or phones, we all took a wee moment to dare to dream “Hello Ms President” and, before you knew it, #Oprah2020 was trending. Now, that would make ­America great again. Winfrey stole the show at the Golden Globes in terms of stardust but the big talking point was the fact that most of the ­attendees chose to wear black to demonstrate solidarity with ­women who have been harassed in the film industry and other walks of life and to highlight the successor to the highly successful #MeToo ­campaign called #Timesup.

I know. There’s a lot of hashtags going on. But the gesture worked. It reminded the world that the issue hasn’t gone away and, given that the Golden Globes were the first major glossy awards ceremony since the Weinstein allegations exploded, it would have been odd and wrong to have not marked the scandal in some way. And everyone looks good in black, so all the stylists were ­happy. Even I donned a black dress on my regular CNN talk show in ­solidarity – although everything else needed a visit to the dry cleaner.

READ MORE: Donald Trump wants to ‘Trumpalise’ the Queen during UK visit

But, the gesture worked, because commentators and journalists were talking about harassment and ­gender equality again. And you can never talk about this issue too much. Star after star fell over themselves to rush to a ­camera gushing about #Timesup and declared that a new dawn had ­broken for women.

But has it really? I don’t feel so sure. I am glad the issue was raised. But a fashion statement which becomes a useful and important PR exercise feels small when you look at what’s happening in real life. Women are still paid less than men. We know that from Carrie Gracie’s resignation as China editor of the BBC. She discovered that she was being paid less than men doing exactly the same job. In fact, you can argue that because China is so important and demanding – given the language and political climate – she should be paid a bit more than, let’s say, the US editor.

The Brussels editor – quite a big gig right now with that small issue called Brexit – is also paid way less than her male colleagues.

READ MORE: BBC’s China editor resigns in gender pay row

This ­completely lances the nonsense argument from people who refuse to believe unequal pay exists, that men and women get paid the same for doing the same work. They don’t. Even in one of the most recognised, trusted brands on Earth. We also have a slew of companies starting to report on gender pay.

Again, a lot of critics of equal pay whinge that these figures are meaningless because they are an ­average and if you want the truth it’s because all the men are at the top of the ­company and all the women are well below. Well, that’s okay is it?

It’s acceptable in 2017 to run ­organisations and companies – like lifestyle store Olvier Bonas, many of whose customers are mainly female – where the chaps tend to have have the well-paid jobs in ‘‘ead office’ and the girls work on the shop floor. Clearly the message is: Women! Know Your Place – and it ain’t on a board or in senior management.

That’s why pay transparency ­matters, because it tells you where the pay and the power lies. Only ­having white men in positions of power not only excludes valuable and vital talent but can create a ­culture where ­sexual harassment and bullying occurs. Power is a huge part of the story and women still don’t have enough of it.

Just look at our Prime Minister – although that is largely her own fault, it pains me to say. This week’s reshuffle – or kerfuffle – is proving to be as painful as a bikini wax but is taking much, much longer. It was meant to be the girl-power reshuffle designed to boost women into the Cabinet and yet it’s more a case of Girls Not Allowed. All the useless men got to stay in post, including Boris Johnson who has been madly disloyal and has been proved to be an actual international liability. Yet it’s poor Justine Greening, the former Education Secretary, who got the boot for ­having the temerity to ­challenge May at Cabinet meetings and halting her absurd plans to bring back ­grammar schools.

I may not have always agreed with Greening but she’s a decent woman, who recently came out, and ­probably did more to appeal to young people than the rest of the Cabinet put together.

The fact that she lost her job while the dangerous disaster of a Health Secretary got to keep his – and bagged a promotion – tells you ­everything you need to know about May’s sense of fairness and how absolutely useless she is.

Apparently, Jeremy Hunt just stood his ground and refused to go. Next time your boss calls you in to sack you, just refuse to leave without a bigger title … simples! One rule for the chaps and all that. At the time of writing this, the post of ­Women and Equality was still vacant. One can only assume that now that Toby Young has resigned from the board of the university regulator, his appointment will be imminent.

The way things are going for May right now, you really couldn’t make it up. But thank goodness he did resign. After all the tweets about young women’s breasts and porn, could you imagine him at Freshers’ Week? Gross.