'Ministers are letting women down': WEC hits out at government response to Misogyny In Music report

'Ministers are letting women down': WEC hits out at government response to Misogyny In Music report

The government has rejected recommendations by MPs to help protect women in the music industry from harassment and discrimination.

In its response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s (WEC) Misogyny In Music report in Janary, the government said it is “clear that everyone should be able to work in the music industry without being subject to misogyny and discrimination”.

However, it stopped short of accepting the cross-party Committee’s wide-ranging recommendations to transform industry protections, despite WEC’s warning that women pursuing careers in music face “endemic” misogyny and discrimination in a sector dominated by self-employment and gendered power imbalances.

The WEC will be holding a follow-up evidence session relating to its Misogyny In Music report with CIISA and the OfS today (24 Apri).

WEC had called on ministers to take legislative steps to amend the Equality Act to ensure freelance workers have the same protections from discrimination as employees and bring into force section 14 to improve protections for people facing intersectional inequality.

It also recommended the government should legislate to impose a duty on employers to protect workers from sexual harassment by third parties, a proposal the government initially supported and then rejected last year. The government also failed to give assurances that it would extend the time limit for bringing Equality Act-based claims to an employment tribunal from three to six months as recommended by the Committee.

On non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), the report cited distressing testimonies of victims “threatened into silence”, with the WEC urging ministers to prohibit the use of non-disclosure and other forms of confidentiality agreements in cases involving sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, bullying or harassment, and discrimination relating to a protected characteristic. 

The government plans to bring in such measures in higher education but did not support the Committee’s recommendation to do so for music or other sectors.

Responding, the government said the Committee’s inquiry “has been important in voicing concerns from across the music industry and for championing equality”, adding: “The government maintains that everyone should be able to work without being subject to misogyny and discrimination.”

But it said it had “no plans to implement the dual discrimination provision in the Equality Act 2010 at this time”, adding “there could be unintended consequences” from a retrospective moratorium on non-disclosure agreements.

On CIISA, it said: “The Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority has arisen from a clear need to address concerns and set standards so there is clarity around expectations and a single point of accountability for where creative industry professionals can go when these standards are not met…

“The government will continue to engage constructively with the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority as it develops its proposals. Should the Authority identify any legal barriers that may impact its service delivery, the government is willing to discuss this.”

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Caroline Nokes MP (pictured), said: “The Committee’s report laid bare a ‘boys’ club’ where sexual harassment and abuse is common and where ‘endemic’ misogyny has persisted for far too long.

“Following its shocking findings, women across the music industry have spoken out in the clearest possible terms about the need for transformative change. Improving protections and reporting mechanisms through necessary legislative and structural reforms are essential steps to achieving that.

“Ministers are letting women down with their feet dragging over NDAs. We have had platitudes and reassurance, but still no action despite evidence that the use of NDAs is rife, in far too many sectors, and they are being used to protect perpetrators and silence victims.

“It is welcome that the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA) supports the recommendations made in the report and the Office for Students (OfS) is consulting on new regulatory requirements to tackle sexual misconduct in higher education.

“WEC is calling on the government to re-think its stance, equip CIISA with the powers required to drive the changes needed or risk falling short over the action needed to protect women in the music industry from harassment and discrimination.”

Charisse Beaumont, Black Lives In Music CEO, who gave evidence to the Committee, said: "Though it's heartening to see the government’s willingness to engage with the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA), their oversight of the unique challenges faced by women in our sector is profoundly disheartening. To dismiss the need for the dual discrimination provision in the Equality Act 2010 as 'unnecessary' reveals a grave misunderstanding or, worse, a blatant disregard by the government. Intersectional discrimination is a harsh reality for countless women in our industry. 

“Every day at Black Lives In Music, we confront stories of abuse and harassment, silenced through the misuse of NDAs. It's imperative that the government enact laws specific to the creative sectors to safeguard victims. Prevention is undeniably more effective than a cure. The Women And Equalities Select Committee, through their report, has devised a blueprint to address these issues proactively. We need a government that moves beyond deadlock and actively protects all workers in the music industry.”

BLiM is conducting a survey on harassment and bullying.

Jen Smith, interim CEO of CIISA, said: "CIISA continues to work extremely closely with Black Lives In Music as a key strategic partner. Whilst the Select Committee Enquiry has concluded, scrutiny on the alarming prevalence of bullying, harassment and discriminatory behaviour in the music industry has not. BLiM's current survey to gather testimony is a pivotal intervention and CIISA will continue to work closely with BLiM in ensuring that the findings shape and influence CIISA's services.” 

Campaigner Vick Bain, founder of The F List, who also gave evidence to the inquiry, said: "It was with growing dismay and disappointment that we read through paragraph after paragraph of the government response to the Women And Equalities Committee's report on Misogyny In Music. Or should that be non-response, as they have chosen to reject every single recommendation made. The inquiry heard in great detail from women who have experienced the corrosive and controlling impact of misogyny in the UK music industry. And we know that some women are more vulnerable to this than others, that the intersectional impact of multiple dimensions of discrimination make Black women, Asian women, disabled women, trans women, and so on, suffer the career limiting consequences of these behaviours the most. 

“That the UK government has the ability to update the Equalities Act in order to give greater protection to these women and yet is choosing not to, speaks volumes. We will therefore continue to campaign alongside our sister organisation Black Lives In Music to ensure that this vital issue is not forgotten and the voices of Black women in music are heard." 

Nadia Khan, founder of Women in CTRL, who also gave evidence, said: “It's incredibly disheartening to hear the government deny the reality of the endemic misogyny and discrimination that women face in the UK music industry. 

“The report rightly highlighted the urgent need for action to tackle these issues, describing the music industry as a 'boys club' where sexual harassment and abuse are common, and victims often face disbelief or career consequences if they speak out.?The report also highlighted limitations in opportunity, lack of support, and persistent unequal pay, which are intensified for those facing intersectional barriers. 

“The government's decision to reject the reasonable steps recommended by the select committee is shocking. It further reinforces the invisibility of women in the industry, and sends a clear message that nothing will change for women. Women in CTRL urge the government to reconsider its stance and prioritise the safety and equality of women in the music industry.” 


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