The Suffolk branch of women’s rights organisation the Fawcett Society has urged public bodies to use “chair” to refer to people presiding over meetings, a plea it has also extended to the press.
Now Barry Peters, left, communities content editor at 24 Johnston Press titles across the East of England, has announced in a Tweet that he is “looking at introducing chair as a matter of style guidance.”
Eleanor Rehahn, coordinator of the Fawcett Society in suffolk, praised Barry’s consideration of what she believes would be a “real trailblazing move”.
She told HTFP: “The term ‘chairman’ is loaded with gender expectations. The public perception of a chairman is a man.
“I bet if you asked a random group of people to draw their image of a ‘chairman’ they would all draw a white man of a certain age.
“There is massive under representation of women in positions of power and authority and while the terminology still refers to these roles as the preserve of men, this presents huge barriers to women themselves, but also to perceptions in society as a whole.
“I firmly believe that institutions should lead as well as follow public opinion. The press has a huge responsibility in relation to this and leads and follows all the time.”
The society’s campaign has also won the backing of Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble, who told Eleanor he would discuss a change in the authority’s terminology with its constitutional reform working party.
She added: “If newspapers started using the term ‘chair’ instead of ‘chairman’, they could have a hugely influential role in normalising the use of the term and shifting public opinion.
“People are so resistant to change but if they see the word being used more regularly then I believe perceptions can change.”
Barry has yet to respond to HTFP’s request for a further comment on the issue.