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The Sunday Times headline intrigued me….. “Grandmother, 71, tackles slave traffickers for the Pope”.  The mind boggles … have they been recruiting in the old people’s homes ? Read on and the front page article reveals that the Pope’s new crusade is actually going to be headed up, not only by a retired academic from Warwick University, but also the Vatican’s most senior woman. Well that sounds more like it!  Who wants a Granny taking on that role?

So why did the newspaper refer to Margaret Archer as a “grandmother”? And not only that, not once in the lead article was she referred to as a professor. It said she “spent most of her career as an academic” and in the previous week’s edition the paper also carried a small appointments notice where she was called a “British sociologist”. Margaret Archer’s new role at the Vatican is as President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences where she says she intends to “use the pulling power of the Vatican to enlist experts from around the world” to support the Pope’s work against modern slavery.

It’s a big job with a big vision and one that caught the attention of the editors of the Sunday Times,  enough to warrant placement of the story right under the masthead. Yet they could not see fit to use her previous job title as a Professor and they managed to diminish her, not so subtly, by introducing her as a grandmother which has absolutely no relevance to the story whatsoever. I doubt any man placed in that same job would have been referred to as a “grandfather”. In fact, when is a man ever introduced as a father in a professional context?

I had a similar thing happen to me. Back in the day … decades ago when I ran a PR consulting firm, I won an award from the Chartered Institute of Marketing for my work launching a hotel client. It was a prestigious award, there was a glitzy ceremony at a smart London five-star venue, and after the presentation, interviews were given with the media and press packs distributed. Somehow the story got piped through to the newspaper in the town where I grew up … Scarborough. My mother sent me the press cutting that subsequently appeared and I was shocked to read in it that I had been described as a former chamber-maid. I was horrified. I have never been a chamber-maid. They just decided that I must have started out life in the hospitality industry as a maid and worked my way up. Obviously, local girl makes good … at last, after making all those beds!

Is so little expected of us? Can we not be known for our professional work? Why do you think the Sunday Times wrote that headline?

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