Three black councillors claim that a City Hall security guard mistook them for cleaners while they were attending an International Women’s Day event for ethnic minorities.
The event on March 10 was organised partly as a networking event and was attended by businesswomen, campaigners, charity workers and women from a range of backgrounds.
Hackney councillors Carole Williams, Sophie Conway and Sade Etti, were invited to the event organised by London Assembly Member Florence Eshalomi, to mark the end of International Women’s Day.
Upon arrival at City Hall, the councillors were greeted by two security guards and informed them they were there for the event on the ninth floor. They say that one of the guards questioned them about where they were going and whether they were there to clean.
Williams, the Labour councillor for Hoxton West, who is also a part-time doctoral researcher, told Eastlondonlines: “We had been invited to this event at City Hall to mark International Women’s Day and were greeted when we arrived at the door. Then one of the security guards asked if we were there for an event or to clean.”
The councillors say they were extremely taken back by the security guards comment.
Etti told Eastlondonlines: “The three of us witnessed this and it is really shocking and unthinkable that this is happening in 21st century” she said. “There is no doubt a lot of work still needs to be done in tackling deep rooted race inequality.”
— Sophie Conway (@SophieConway84) 12 March 2017
The councillors said when they challenged him; he said he was “joking.”
Williams added: “What happened at City Hall last Friday is indicative of a wider issue about the role of women in society and the perceptions and images of black women.”
Hackney Council is incredibly diverse both in race and gender. Six out of the 12 Labour members on the Greater London Authority (GLA), a top-tier administrative body for Greater London are women, three of which are from an ethnic minority group.
Williams said: “We have some great examples of diversity in London politics and in the life of the City but that’s not the same across the board for politics. Only 33 per cent of councillors and 25 per cent of local government chief executives are women.”
She added: “While we have come a long way as a society, there’s still progress to be made.
“What happened on Friday is a reflection of what is happening in society. This is a wake up call for us all.”
City Hall is investigating the incident – councillors do not want to see the security guard to lose his job as a result of the incident.
Williams added: “He should not be made a scapegoat for a problem that belongs to society as a whole. He should not lose his job.”
A spokesman for the GLA told Hackney Gazette: “We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind and we take complaints of this nature extremely seriously.
“We are currently investigating this matter and will of course take action if appropriate.”