A woman who complained of being turned away from a Brisbane barber shop because of her gender has won the right to have her hair cut after shopping centre management changed the wording of their lease deal.
Vivien Houston was a regular at Jimmy Rod’s Barber Shop in The Gap Village Shopping Centre in Brisbane’s inner-west, but she was turned away because she was female.
Jimmy Rod’s managing director James O’Brien on Monday said women could no longer have haircuts at the shop because of a lease agreement with the local shopping centre management about the mix of shops.
On Tuesday, there was a breakthrough in the stand-off.
Mr O’Brien told the ABC he had negotiated to have the lease changed “before the end of the day”.
“My solicitors contacted their solicitors about amending the policy that is in there, to change it that we actually can have ladies to come in a get a barber-style haircut,” he said.
“I am very happy and I just can’t wait to go back and cut hair … all we want to do is look after our clients that come into our shops.”
Ms Houston said she was shocked when her regular cutter turned her away.
“I’ve been going to that particular store for two years,” she said.
“When she [the hairdresser] initially told me it was because I was a woman, I thought it was a joke – she’s cut my hair a lot previously when I’ve gone there.”
She said the new lease deal was excellent news.
“That’s what I was hoping for when all of this started,” she said.
“I’m glad that speaking out about it has resulted in everyone becoming aware of the anti-discrimination legislation and being willing to make changes to the lease.”
Ms Houston said she hoped it might lead to broader change.
“In speaking out this has educated a lot more people. For me personally, I would have preferred if it was just handled quietly, so that I didn’t have to speak out and be the centre of attention, some of which has been quite negative,” she said.
“But I can see the benefits of having spoken out because it has helped to get the information out there to a lot of other people.
“If you’re a woman and you want a traditional men’s style cut in The Gap, you can now get it.”
Hair and Beauty Industry Association chief executive Sandra Campitelli described the competition clause based on gender as “crazy”.
“I’d be urging shopping centres to reconsider what they are asking these people to sign,” she said.
Why women-only gyms and mens-only clubs are allowed
Although Jimmy Rod’s was contractually bound to deny Ms Houston, several other businesses choose to operate on a men or women-only model.
The most popular include fitness centres, social clubs, and travel agencies including Brisbane’s Tattersalls Club, where memberships are only offered to men.
While women can use the facilities and services of the club, it is only permitted with a “partner’s card” or as a guest of a member.
Other examples are the ride-sharing service Shebah, which is exclusively available to women and children and the female-only tour company Sisterhood Womens Travel.
In Queensland, it is illegal to discriminate against a person because of their sex under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, however there are ways a business can operate around these laws.
A number of exemptions can be granted through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal which makes it legal to offer services to only one gender.
One exemption includes “welfare measures” which allows places such as gyms to only host women members and staff.
The act also allows for “reasonable sex discrimination” by non-for-profit clubs as well as some provisions for single-sex accommodation such as female-only hostels or all-boy’s boarding homes.