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How Boy George and my Star War pyjamas saved me from a life of sexism and unconscious biases…….Karma, Karma, Karma, Chame………..

How Boy George and my Star War pyjamas saved me from a life of sexism and unconscious biases…….Karma, Karma, Karma, Chame………..

It's 1982. I am sitting on the sofa in a cosy suburban lounge in my Star Wars pyjamas, perched between my mother and father. They are transfixed by the telly, blinking with confusion.

"What the hell is it?" exclaims my dad. Mum sits there open-mouthed in mute shock.

The object of their bewilderment is Top of The Pops. On the screen a future Operation Yewtree suspect has just introduced Culture Club. A man with scouse brows, far too much rouge on his cheeks and bits of string in his long hair is miming badly to Do You Really Want To Hurt Me. We didn't have gaydars or tolerance in the Suburbs in those days and subsequently the Hardings were perplexed.

"Is it a boy?" mum asks, a hint of fear in her voice.
No mum, it's a Boy George, and the times they are a-changing.

Tabloids like to give public figures two word descriptions; in the eighties we had 'pop weirdo, Michael Jackson' and 'Wham hunk, George Michael'. George O'Dowd (Boy George's real name) became 'gender bender, Boy George', such was the perplexity his image caused.

But the real shocker happened when Boy George stopped singing and spoke. He was intelligent, articulate, thoughtful and sensitive. He was immensely likeable, which confused a lot of people who had made up their minds about him based on his appearance.

Today, if George walked down most city centre high streets in the UK dressed in his eighties garb he'd hardly register a backwards glance. We live in a world where men wear lycra and leggings and where Selfridges has just announced that its handing a chunk of its floor space over to gender neutral fashion. At Christmas I even took possession of a man bag. I feel liberated when I wear it slung over my shoulder.

The point is this. As individuals we all have unconscious biases which can largely be overcome through awareness, education and exposure. We make snap judgements about people based on how we perceive them before we get to know them. And often we discover these biases are misinformed.

As a society we also have collective biases driven by a range of factors such as history, culture and media. These are the sort of ingrained biases which drive inequality.

They are the kind of biases that result in female directors taking home £21,000 less than their male counterparts, according to last year's National Management Salary Survey. They too can be overcome but it takes a lot more effort and a lot more time.

Open your mind, engage with the world and the peop...
Have I really got the best job in the world...?


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