03 August 2015 - Post by:Sheila Fahy
If I had to predict who would be on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour power list of female influencers I would have failed miserably. I would have put money on finding Kim Kardashian, Angela Merkle, Christine Lagarde and Sheryl Sandberg as contenders. I most certainly would have expected Taylor Swift to make an appearance too. How wrong I was. SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon came in at number one, which I guess is understandable given her profile and performance during the general election. American Vogue’s Anna Wintour was second on the list followed by Angelina Jolie.
I am pretty sure that very few would have predicted that a trans woman would have made the power list. Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, the Olympic decathlon gold medallist, came in at number seven. She unveiled her new look on the cover of Vanity Fair in June this year, creating a frenzy of publicity and debate in newsrooms and on social media under the hashtag #callmecaitlyn.
I was both surprised and delighted (in equal measure) to see Caitlyn on the list. It was a reminder of how far we have travelled down the diversity road, as when I first qualified as a lawyer, there was very little in the way of rights for trans people in the workplace. It was not until 1996 that the European Court of Justice ruled that dismissal of a transgender woman was covered by sex discrimination legislation. Three years later the UK Government introduced the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations protecting those in the workplace who are transitioning or have undergone gender reassignment. These days it is more common to advise on workplace transgender issues, particularly as employees transition into their aspirational gender.
Diversity is about celebrating and dignifying difference, which is what Caitlyn had the courage to do. She deserves her place on the power list, not least because her bravery will encourage others to live and work as their authentic selves. As one of the #callmecaitlyn tweeters said:
Somewhere in the world right now, a 12 year-old is looking at the cover of Vanity Fair. Instead of feeling that life isn’t worth living, he or she is inspired to feel comfortable in their own skin.