Miranda Brawn & City of London Awardwashing

Given the glass ceiling on top jobs in the City of London and this local authority’s notorious lie machine, it is not surprising to find the utterly undemocratic and business vote dominated local council awardwashing the situation by picking 100 women to receive the Freedom of the City as a way of ‘marking’ the centenary of women getting the vote. More of an eye-opener is the fact that diversity campaigner Miranda Brawn has chosen accept this bauble despite the council failing dismally to tackle gender discrimination on its own patch. Since 1905 when the Guildhall Lodge was founded more than two thirds of those holding the City of London’s top job of Lord Mayor have belonged to this one small branch of men-only freemasonry. This despite the fact that only 0.36% of the English population are freemasons and the percentage of these belonging to the Guildhall Lodge is absolutely minuscule.

The council’s Standards Committee (dominated by freemasons) thinks it is perfectly acceptable to allow the men-only Guildhall Lodge to use council premises at no cost, despite criticism of this because of the way it contributes to gender imbalances in top posts. There have only ever been two women Lord Mayors of London and belonging to the Guildhall Lodge makes its members disproportionately more likely to land this top job (and others such as sheriff). On top of this, ‘Sir’ David Wootton – who is chair of the committee that hands out the city’s Freedom ‘awards’ – is himself a top mason. Masonry does not play a significant role in English society as a whole but it does in the City of London, and its influence clearly contributes to women failing to be properly represented within this local authority. We have made it clear that our view is that unless they are prepared to quickly recruit a lot of women to high ranking positions, freemasonic lodges – including but not limited to the Guildhall Lodge – should not be allowed to meet on City of London premises.

Likewise, Freedom of the City of London is handed out on a fairly indiscriminate basis and often for political ends. One wonders why anyone claiming they are campaigning for progressive change within society would want to join the ranks of human rights abusers such as Aung San Suu Kyi, political reactionaries like Ian Paisley Jr, and the paedophile Keith Harding, in accepting a Freedom of the City of London ‘award’. After the council voted to remove Suu Kyi’s Freedom earlier this month, it decided to write to her and see what she had to say about this before actually doing anything. It doesn’t yet have a mechanism to remove the ‘honour’ despite the scandal around Keith Harding gaining media coverage five years ago. It seems that powerful elements within the council hope that if they keep dragging their feet over coming up with a method for removing Freedoms, these issues will go away and they won’t have to ‘dishonour’ Suu Kyi or anyone else.

It strikes us as bizarre that none of this has led to Miranda Brawn rejecting the offer of ‘honourary’ Freedom, which she received in a ceremony at the Guildhall on 8 January 2019. This resulted in a small splash in City Matters #89 (9-22 January 2019, page 2). Last month news of Brawn’s award received similar uncritical coverage to that found in this free sheet on the Brixton Blog* and at Financial News London:

A banking executive working to boost diversity in the Square Mile has been granted the Freedom of the City of London as part of an initiative to mark the centenary of women in the UK winning the right to vote.

Over the course of 2018, the City of London has awarded 100 women with the Freedom of the City, a centuries-old honour originally linked to London’s livery companies. This year’s initiative comes 100 years on from the suffragette movement that secured women’s rights to vote.

The latest to be given the honour is Miranda Brawn, director of legal and transaction management for Europe at Daiwa Capital Markets, who has previously appeared on Financial News’s list of the leading women in European finance.

A spokesman for the City Corporation confirmed that Brawn, who will receive the honour in a January presentation at the corporation’s Guildhall home, joins City figures including lawyers Baroness Fiona Shackleton and Jo Delahunty on this year’s list.

Brawn, whose banking career has seen her work at Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup and JPMorgan, runs her own diversity leadership foundation aimed at helping people from ethnic minorities find opportunities in finance, law and academia.

Last year she was given the government’s Points of Light award for her work with the scholarship. Prime Minister Theresa May said at the time that Brawn’s “tireless commitment to increasing opportunities for future leaders from ethnic minority communities is changing lives”.

Square Mile diversity advocate given Freedom of the City. Miranda Brawn joins 100-strong list of women given the honour to mark a century since women won the right to vote by Tim Burke, Financial News London, 18 December 2018. https://www.fnlondon.com/articles/square-mile-diversity-advocate-given-freedom-of-the-city-20181218

Notes.

*Brixton Blog quotes Brawn as saying: “I have worked in the City of London throughout my whole career and I am looking forward to the ceremony, and to continue helping to increase diversity within the City of London and beyond. 2018 has been a great year especially to commemorate the centenary of women’s suffrage. I have been featured among history’s top women fighting for gender equality as part of Oxford University’s suffragette celebratory exhibition at the start of this year, and now I am ending the year on another high note with this amazing honour from the City of London!” See: https://www.brixtonblog.com/2018/12/brixton-equality-commissioner-awarded-freedom-of-city-of-london/

If Brawn is serious about ‘helping to increase diversity within the City of London’ we feel she should be tackling the use of council premises for free and at reduced rates by men-only groups whose members have been absurdly over-represented in this local authority’s top job. As well as tackling awardwashing on the part of a committee chaired by a leading representative of these men-only lodges, and campaigning for the abolition of the undemocratic business vote.

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