Harassment of women still rife in workplace, says Baroness Kennedy

 

Sexual harassment and the objectification of women still plagues the workplace in Britain's top professions, a leading human rights lawyer has warned.

Baroness Helena Kennedy, who hosts the Women of the Year Lunch today, said sexism was still a problem in British society and that women were under pressure not to challenge colleagues who sexually harassed them for fear of damaging their career prospects. She compared modern attitudes to those that allowed "the ugly business of covering up Jimmy Savile".

"I saw it myself as a young woman in the 1970s and I know that it still goes on," Baroness Kennedy told The Independent. "Young women in the professions – they come and tell me. It hasn't disappeared. I think young women are much braver nowadays about naming it and are more prepared to challenge it, but not always – because they feel that there will be consequences."

Revelations from Savile's alleged victims have prompted many leading women in the media to speak out about sexual harassment they experienced in the 1970s and 1980s. "There is a kind of acceptance of that kind of behaviour," Baroness Kennedy said. "That leads to bad stuff, like the ugly business of covering up Jimmy Savile.

"There is something unacceptable about the idea that young girls still have to put up with so much from older men."

Baroness Kennedy is president of the Women of the Year Lunch. The event, in its 57th year, awards the achievements of women in all walks of life. She set up her own chambers at the age of 24 and became the first female chair of the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute earlier this year.

Although Baroness Kennedy sees great potential in a new generation of young professionals, she said there was "still a number of great things" to be addressed in gender equality. "There's still an issue on equal pay. Until you have that equal evaluation of the contribution men and women make, then there will be an undervaluing of what women do."

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