HR Hartley

The age-old battle for equality goes on

I have a large file on my desk marked ‘equality’. Currently, I am working my
way through it to ensure my organisation is ready to comply with the laws
governing all forms of discrimination.

So far, I am happy to say I haven’t discovered any huge discrepancies of pay
between the genders – but then I am only a quarter of the way through the file.
It is a hard slog, despite my belief in equal rights. So I took a night off to
visit the Queen’s theatre in London.

On the advice of a Personnel Today journalist – the one who calls me at one
minute to noon every Monday to harangue me for my column – I saw a play called
The Tamer Tamed. It was written by a man called John Fletcher (1579 – 1625)
about 20 years after The Taming of the Shrew. Penned as a sequel and with the
blessing of Shakespeare himself, Fletcher charts the second marriage of the
central male character Petruchio (his first wife died after he brought her to

Petruchio is reduced from a beer-swilling, arrogant pig into a doting,
empathetic husband after Wife Two decides she is simply not putting up with his
sexist behaviour. In desperation, he fakes symptoms of the plague, but she
outwits him, sparks a small but powerful women’s revolt and comes out

Extraordinary, but also utterly shameful for today’s society that a play
written in the 17th century virtually airs line by line the same equality
debate that still rages on today.

Pay inequities, for example, remain a particular problem. But how many
organisations are doing something about it? Not many, I’ll bet. By now you
should be conducting equal pay audits, not simply ignoring the whole issue
because it’s just too big to face up to, and your board can’t work out how to
make the books balance if you discover some huge shortfalls.

C’mon HR: this is a call to arms. It’s up to us to champion equal pay once
and for all. Are you on board?

Hartley, our new weekly columnist with strong opinion, is an HR director
at large

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