Dundee’s council leader has insisted “we don’t have male jobs and female jobs” as he defended the decision to appoint a man as Tayside’s first period dignity officer.
John Alexander says he understands why some people are upset at the controversy that has engulfed the region – but believes those in charge of the appointment are best placed to select a candidate.
Dundonian Jason Grant will lead a working group pulled together to improve awareness about availability of period products and how to access them.
But the decision to give the job to a man has made global headlines, after tennis legend Martina Navratilova labelled it ‘f*****g ridiculous’.
The backlash has grown in recent days with the story even reaching American media giants the Washington Post and CNN.
The appointment was made by the Period Dignity Working Group made up of one woman each from Dundee and Angus College, Perth College, Angus Council and Dundee City Council.
Council leader against gender-specific jobs
Mr Alexander, whose SNP council has been criticised for the part it played in the move, said: “The role is about project leadership and management.
“There’s a much wider partnership, including the key strategy group, which is also all-female.
“We don’t have male jobs and female jobs. In fact, most people would campaign against such things.
“Male midwives are not controversial, but there is no doubting that they have no experience of child birth.
“That said, I’m not naive enough not to see why there is the current controversy.
“The appointment has been made and the successful applicant’s focus should be on what such a role can achieve for people across Tayside.”
‘Context needed’ around period dignity job
The new dignity officer role was created after Scotland became the first country in the world to enshrine the right to free period products into law.
Mr Grant, a former student wellbeing officer with Dundee and Angus College, previously spoke to The Courier, revealing his excitement about the landmark role.
The optics and language are very important and while I understand views expressed, I think the discussion so far has lacked context.
John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council
While recognising the strength of feeling on the subject, Mr Alexander says people should look at the appointment in context.
He said: “Politicians are, rightly, not involved in the recruitment or appointment process.
“I must defer to those representatives involved, their experience, knowledge of the role and the applicants.
“None of us have seen the applications, been privy to the interviews etc and I always prefer to make an informed contribution to debates and discussions. Judgement is very easy from the outside.
“The optics and language are very important and while I understand views expressed, I think the discussion so far has lacked context.”
The women on the working group from Dundee and Angus College, Perth College, Angus Council and Dundee City Council have stayed mostly silent, only releasing a statement making clear they backed the appointment and claiming Mr Grant was the strongest candidate.
What have other institutions said?
Mr Grant, who will be paid between £33,153 and £36,126 annually, has not spoken publicly since the controversy spread.
Asked for a comment about its role in the appointment, Perth College responded with a statement attributed to the Period Dignity Working Group.
It said: “It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
The Courier has also contacted the leader and the chief executive of Angus Council, and the principal of Dundee and Angus College.