Equal rights for women is undoubtedly a cause that has achieved a certain amount of success over the last few decades, and this has helped to see women treated more and more equally with men both at work and in the home. However in some ways this success is something of a curse – and because women have been so successful in achieving something approaching equality this means for many that it seems to be less pressing an issue.
In short because women are now so much better treated, some of the inequality that still goes on ends up getting overlooked. This is particularly true in the workplace where discrimination can take many forms – whether it’s in people’s attitudes, policies toward pregnancy, or the ‘glass ceiling’ that many women still experience.
What do you do?
Steps You Can Take
First of all it’s very important to make sure that you are indeed experiencing sexual discrimination. Consider that what you perceive as discrimination may in fact be down to your performance or circumstances – is everyone receiving the same treatment? Do other women agree with you?
If you research the situation and company policies and decide that you are indeed being discriminated against, then the next course of action is to take your dispute higher up. Don’t go straight to court with your issue as this can be very experience and can unnecessarily damage the reputations of both you and your organization when it may just be an isolated case perpetuated by a single employee.
See if you can garner support then from other women who you work with – if they feel discriminated against as well then they might be willing to sign a petition or to go to your higher ups with you. By taking a united front you can strengthen your position and add weight to your argument. Now take your complaint as high as possible and ask for an explanation as to your treatment while expressing your dissatisfaction with the policies or individuals concerned. If you can’t get a meeting in person then a well structured letter will work well.
Again don’t necessarily accuse anyone of discrimination right away – this can come across as threatening and confrontational and it may undermine your argument – however if you do not get the answer you are looking for then you may consider dropping the ‘D word’ at this point as it can lend a lot more power to your complaints and ensure that you get a quicker response.
If you still don’t have any luck then now might be the time to consider using the law to get what you want. There are two acts that can help you here:
The Sexual Discrimination Act – Which protects both men and women from discrimination on the grounds of not only sex, but also marriage, civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity. In short then you’re having to take maternity leave should not jeopardize or compromise your position within the organization and you can quote this act in the case that it does.
The Equal Pay Act – This act ensures that both sexes should get the exact same pay, perks and benefits for working the same job and hours.
Of course there are workarounds that organizations can use to get around both of these laws, but with a good lawyer they are powerful tools and taken very seriously in court. Call an employment lawyer and discuss your case, and they will be able to let you know whether or not you have a case and how best to proceed.
In many cases your situation won’t go to court and you will find that your organization offers you a settlement out of court. It’s very important for big businesses to protect their reputations and not be seen to discriminate and this is something that works in your favour. Short of threatening legal action you can likewise threaten to tell your story to the press which might similarly cause your employers to wake up and take notice.
However do note that your reputation is also at stake and that it may be uncomfortable working in your environment after going to these lengths. Note that discrimination runs much deeper than just unequal pay, and if you aren’t happy in your work environment this is unlikely to change. Sometimes it’s just easier to consider finding employment elsewhere.