A model who lost her job following the PDC decision to axe walk-on girls, says that this job made up 60 per cent of her earnings and she had no problem doing it. Fair enough? Or is this an outdated sexist practice that has no place in the current climate?
It’s not just that the walk on girls, or pit girls in F1, must be female, but there is a requirement to be attractive. It’s not strictly unlawful to put such a requirement in a job advert but there are considerations that companies should take before doing so. Firstly, attractiveness is highly subjective and having this as a job requirement makes it very difficult to justify your recruitment decisions. This means that a company will find it very hard to justify rejecting someone with a protected characteristic thereby leaving them open to a discrimination claim.
If someone with a physical disability applied for the role, you could not automatically reject their application by saying that the disability caused that individual to not be attractive enough. They would have to be considered for the role on merit alone.
Aside from that in employment law terms, employers can request an applicant be female if there is a genuine occupational requirement – such as for the personal care of a female patient. It’s difficult to see what the requirement here would be. While traditionally these ‘glamorous’ roles have been filled by women – they are after all known as pit girls and walk on girls – should a man apply for the job then equal consideration would have to be given.
With all that being said, if someone really wants a certain job and is happy to do it, should we be banning them?
Lauren Pope has worked as a grid girl and a ring girl for 8 years. She says: “It should be our choice what we do for work whether it be this, hostessing or ring girl duties, we should have the choice. For me this was really about the enjoyment. I have a passion for motorsport. I really enjoy the job and get paid to watch the sport I love. What’s annoying me more than anything is they are defending us without even asking us how we feel, and we’ve lost our jobs because of this.”
Women’s rights means that women have the right to choose as well as the right to be treated equally. If women choose to work in these roles, nobody is being exploited and all reasonable steps are being taken to prevent harassment, then is it our place to ban these jobs just because we wouldn’t choose to do them? That could be the start of a very slippery slope….
Women who work as grid girls, pit girls, ring girls etc. are usually hired through a modelling agency. It is that agency’s responsibility to ensure that all working regulations are enforced and, as long as that happens, legally there is no reason why the positions should be eliminated. If there are concerns over equal treatment or exploitation of women then men could be hired for the role as well as women, as happened/happens in MotoGP and the 2015 F1 Monaco Grand Prix.