Blog - Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Discrimination Against Women

Everyone should be treated with basic respect and equality at work

Female employees continue to fight for equal rights

Across Australia it is a crime to discriminate against a person due to their sex. Women have notoriously been the victim of sex discrimination in the workplace since women have been allowed to work. Women have fought for their place in the workplace, and yet continue to be discriminated against due to their gender.

There are a plethora of examples that constitute sex discrimination, some more subtle than others. Particularly surrounding the difficulties of women receiving promotions and advancing in their careers. However, discrimination against women, or anybody, should never be allowed or tolerated.

Toxic employer mindset 

Discrimination against female employees are typically rooted in misogynistic and outdated stereotypes. Some employers do not value female employees, or believe that they can work the same or better than male employees.

Therefore, they do not believe in the future of their female employees or wish to place effort into helping their female employees succeed. Often believing that female employees are not as fast, smart, coordinated, or experienced as their male counterparts. Typically with no proof that their misconceptions are correct or justified. 

There can also be harmful stereotypes that inhibit female employees’ success or opportunity to receive promotions. Stereotypes that all women wish to have children, or be a stay at home parent to take care of the child or children. Or that a female employee is more likely to take care of their parents or sick relatives and thus take more time off of work than male employees.

Discrimination against women is too common – don’t support this behaviour

Furthermore, there is typically some connotation that female staff are ‘extreme’ or overreact, particularly while menstruating. Or that they will experience menopause and automatically become more emotional and less efficient.  

Due to these misconceptions and stereotypes women are overlooked for promotions or to advance their career. Many of the stereotypes relate to the natural life of being a woman, such as menopause and menstruation, that should not be a tool to victimise female employees.

At the heart of discrimination women, male employees do not face the same pressure of unjustified scrutiny due to their natural biology and societal expectations against their control. Discrimination against women can also bleed into other forms of discrimination, such as family responsibility, marital relationship, and pregnancy. 

Identifying discrimination against women 

Times are gone where women are explicitly refused jobs due to their gender. Or are directly told that they cannot work in a profession or a certain level of management. However, that does not mean there is no more discrimination against women. Employers have become more subtle in their discrimination and prejudice against female employees. 

Discrimination against women can include paying women less to complete the same job as male employees. The Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency and Australian Bureau of Statistics has identified that female employees experience on average 13% less pay than male staff. Where women are earning approximately $1,686.00 per week, compared to a male’s income of $1,938.30 per week.

This results in an annual salary discrepancy of $13,119.60. Female employees are being driven out of the workforce as no one can afford to lose $13,000 in a 2024 economy. 

If you believe you’re a victim of discrimination call us now – 1800 333 666

One of the largest contributors to discrimination against women is that they may be offered jobs, but have no way to be promoted, advanced, or further develop their skills. It has been found that only 19.4% of CEO’s in Australia are female and 38.7% of full time workers (source).

Women are just not being considered for senior positions to the same degree as male employees. Resulting in female employees not being able to advance in their career at all due to a “lack of experience”. Despite the fact that their employer, or any other employer, will not provide them experience or invest in their future. 

Sexual harassment and discrimination 

Some employees and employers may not realise that sexual harassment can be considered a form of discrimination against women and based on sex. Sexual harassment is the unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature forced upon another employee. Making them feel upset, uncomfortable, or humiliated.  To consider sexual harassment as sex discrimination is based on the belief that women (in particular) are targeted sexually on the basis of their sex.

 If they were any other gender they have a significantly reduced risk of being a victim of sexual harassment. As a generalisation, male employees do not experience the same volume of sexual harassment. They are typically not considered the ‘ideal victim’. Whereas, 1 in 4 women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in the workplace. 

Women, due to their gender, experience less favourable treatment compared to their male coworkers. Less favourable treatment can include sexual harassment, feeling unsafe at work, and depending on the workplace could lead to further victimisation. 

Do not be afraid to speak up against sexual harassment

Evidence of discrimination 

Studies show that women receive less invitations to job interviews than equally experienced and qualified men. Two resumes were sent out that were identical other than the name used. One male and one female. The male applicant, despite identical resumes, received more invitations for an interview.

Furthermore, when both male and female staff members were interviewed, employers would favour the credentials of male interviewees. Despite liking the female employee more, they were more likely to recommend the male employee (source). 

What studies show is that women in the workforce have to be overqualified or significantly more impressive to be considered and preferred for a role. Whereas, men are held to a less strict standard and therefore will be preferred for roles that they may be barely qualified for. Creating an uneven and biased work environment before a female employee even begins their employment. 

Contemporary examples of female employees struggling in the workforce 

Female barristers who have trained for years and completed all of their qualifications to get where they are won’t be offered senior briefs. Resulting in them staying stagnant in their role and responsibilities. In a profession where cases and the depth of case heavily influences a barrister’s reputation and ability for further job opportunities. Female barrister’s can not be impressive as they are not given an opportunity to display impressive skills. 

In a similar fashion, female pilots will receive smaller planes and shorter routes. Not given the opportunity to work up their hours or experience to be promoted to captain. 

The construction and warehousing industry can be particularly difficult. It is not uncommon to see female trade person holding the road works sign to allow cars through while only men are building and constructing. Similarly within warehousing, women may work in administration or on the floor but are never given an opportunity to apply for a forklift license despite showing interest. A qualification that otherwise may open up further job opportunities, better pay, or better awards that they are automatically barred from. 

From my own experience, I hire a team of predominantly females who are qualified workplace advisors. However, when clients and potential customers call people will automatically assume that they are speaking to a receptionist.

Then are surprised when the female advisors can answer their questions and provide them help. Or even that they can provide the correct information. Some people will ask for basic information to be fact checked or followed up. They do not grasp the fact that women can work in all industries and positions. 

You could be entitled to financial compensation as a victim of dicrimination

Software Engineer was rejected a promotion due to her “annoying voice”

Ms Gretchen Scott told her story to the Australian Financial Review. Where she was working as a software engineer for years. She was also trying to help other female employees progress in their career. As any STEM career is notoriously difficult for women and they are one of the hardest industries for women to progress in. However, she had persevered through “sheer stubbornness”. 

During a performance review Ms Scott was told that she had all of the technical skills to progress in her career, however her “voice was too annoying” for leadership roles. No male engineer would be passed along for a senior position due to their voice particularly when they have all of the necessary skills and qualifications.

Unfortunately, males in STEM have historically held to a greater standard and preferred in the workplace. Regardless, a male and female candidate may have the same qualifications, worth ethic, and experience. 

Due to the heartbreak of seeing herself and other female employees passed along for promotions and advancements, Ms Scott had become Director of Women Who Code Melbourne. Helping women in STEM to stay within the industry that they love, and be given a genuine opportunity within the workplace. 

While Ms Scott is an inspiration for women in STEM, her story is one of hundreds and thousands of other women, particularly in male dominated industries. Women who are not taken seriously, invested in, or respected in their workplace.

And in order to genuinely succeed Ms Scott and a myriad of other female employees are forced to work above and beyond for the same benefits and opportunities that men are handed. There is no gender equality.

The future of women at work

It is an employer’s responsibility to prevent sex discrimination in the workplace and prevent the creation of a toxic workplace environment. The following ideas and recommendations are arguably not a sign of an employee going above and beyond, but what should be the industry standard to prevent gender bias and discrimination against women.

However, if your employer is already implementing practices to eliminate bias and discrimination then that can be a sign of a respectful and safe workplace. 

One tactic is for a company to implement gender quotas and targets that must be fulfilled. This ensured that there is a measurable and tangible goal within the company that promotes women on all levels of seniority.

While there is no strict legislation on what gender percentage must be in a company, there is the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 that provides recommendations on diversity and corporate governance. Promoting that companies must consider their gender diversity and must explain as to why there may be a lack of diversity. 

Feel empowered at work and break down harmful stereotypes today

Gendered quotas and targets have seen successful results within the Australian mining industry. Divulging that mining companies that are motivated for gender diversity have increased their performance regarding safety, productivity and culture.

Looking internationally, countries like France have legislated that certain companies (approximately 2000) must have a minimum proportion of 40% women and men employed. If not done by a certain time then the board is dissolved and director benefits suspended. This may be the direction Australia takes to minimise discrimination against women in the workplace. 

Anonymously hire your next female CEO?

Some workplaces have adopted anonymous hiring practices. Where applicants are asked to provide a resume with certain details omitted, like name, age, or address. This is done to prevent subconscious bias during the hiring process.

Unless the hiring party was a previous judge and has trained to remove their own personal bias while decision making, it is difficult for the average person to make decisions objectively. Therefore, the hiring party is only judging a candidate in their experience and qualification without risk of a subconscious or deliberate bias. 

The Australian government had promoted this type of hiring practice a number of years prior. However, while conducting tests the results came out varied. For some industries and companies more women were invited to be interviewed and hired in senior positions. Whereas, in other companies there was less female presence.

Perhaps with a larger sample size there may have been a more even split amongst men and women across entire industries rather than focusing on the gender amongst individual companies. 

Do not let misogyny stop you from reaching success

Put a stop to discrimination against women

If you’re looking to lodge a sexual harassment or discrimination complaint in your state, our expert team at A Whole New Approach P/L can help. We are not lawyers but we have been helping women, men, and all kinds of victims to help bring their perpetrators to justice. We do not tolerate any kind of sexual harassment or discrimination and neither should you.

Call 1800 333 666 for a free and confidential discussion today.

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