The Equal Pay Act 1970 (EPA) covers most matters included in your contract of employment. The Sex Discrimination Act relates to discrimination on the grounds of sex or marriage in non-contractual matters. The relationship between the two Acts is complicated. Direct sex discrimination is where a woman is treated less favourably than a man (and vice versa) in similar circumstances (e. g. same job less pay) because of her sex.
For example, it is direct sex discrimination if a financial institution insists that a married woman must apply for a personal loan jointly with her husband, unless it is necessary for a married man to apply for a personal loan jointly with his wife. Another direct sex discrimination is men having to pay into nightclubs where women are admitted free of charge. Indirect sex discrimination applies where a condition or requirement is equal to both sexes. However the fact is it unfavourably affects more woman than men and is not genuinely necessary.
One example given is a mortgage provider only issuing mortgages to full-time workers. Which in fact would apply to both sexes but the target would be on women, as more females than males' work part-time, due to family commitments. Many part-time workers are in secure, permanent and well-paid posts and can earn more than full-time workers. Therefore a refusal to make available a mortgage solely on the fact the worker is part-time is deemed unreasonable. Discrimination is proving to be expensive.
According to a report in the Scotsman (22 February, 2002) a Japanese firm (Nomura Securities) paid out 56 million yen (roughly 300,000) in compensation. The 13 women accused the brokerage (under EPA) of discrimination in promotion and pay. Elsewhere, in recent years, other major financial firms (including American Express, Merrill Lynch and Salomon) have had to cough up $31 million (approximately 22 million) to settle sex discrimination lawsuits. At least women can no longer be legally sacked for becoming pregnant or giving birth and men now have the same rights to maternity leave, on the birth of their children.
In May of 2002, two flats in Bristol owner, Cherie Booth accused judges of the old boys' network and outdated attitudes for the fact that women are still under-represented at most senior levels of the legal profession. Booth condemned the attitude of her male colleagues by stating `…. if the courts are full of people who think that a woman's place is in the home and not on the bench then women will have a lower level of authority….. ' According to Booth women at the top of the legal world had been found wanting and, new guidelines should be implemented to choose who became judges.
Out of 105 High Court Judges 6 are women. Cherie Booth, herself a QC, made reference to the fact that only a dozen women (of 113 available posts) became a QC last year. She further scathed male judges of often holding unsuitable attitudes towards women in court that warped their sense of judgement when ruling in cases. She said `They either view women as weak and vulnerable and in need of their protection or as brazen and wicked and therefore deserving the harsher treatment. In this example women are the targets and male judges the agents.
In the world of stand-up comedy, where the brunt of jokes was once on her indoors, women drivers or the mother-in-law, sexism persists in one way or another. Only two women have ever won the prestigious Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival since 1981 and not since 1995 has a woman made the shortlist. Of course of 160 stand up comics at the Fringe this year there were 30 females but c'mon is it only men who are funny? (Guardian Unlimited September 03, 2002)
These roles are reversed in some occupations -notably social work- yet women remain, in the main, on a smaller salary scale. The glass ceiling remains intact. Historically we have males dominating executive roles in banking, politics, dentistry, religion, education, the armed forces and public sector services, to name but a few. Once it was fact that women below a certain height and weight could not join the police force or the fire service. Although this has changed in recent years some restrictions still apply.
At all levels in the British Armed Forces women may and have (to date a solitary female) become Green Berets or reach the rank of a Commanding Officer yet they will never (to date) stand with their male colleagues (due to occupational segregation) on the front line, in the eventuality of world conflict. Back to the glass ceiling and undervaluing women, in September of this year David Mellor called on public service employees to review what they pay all their staff, in order to ensure women get a fair deal.
Despite thirty years of equal opportunities policies in the public and voluntary sectors women are still underpaid. The average male salary, in a survey of 400 chief executives, was i?? 95,482 with the average female salary sitting at i?? 86,346. Cinderella lives! (Guardian September 25, 2002) The Higher Education Statistics Agency reports that in the older universities, only 8% of women academics are professors and more than one third are on the lowest lecturer pay scale.
The new universities employ more women and are better at promoting them – 16% are professors – but nearly half are on the lowest lecturer pay. (Guardian Unlimited October 10, 2002) In my own home life I work twenty hours a week in paid employment, I study full time and I am also a full time mother and house wife, is it right that only my part time paid job is recognised by my husband? I think not. Although through constant moaning and whinging things are getting better and my husband will take a turn of cooking dinner or doing dishes, I don't blame him for this, I blame socialization.
I do however teach my children that women and men are equal in hope that they will realize the value of equality. In conclusion to end sexism and discrimination is a long way off. I believe, among men and some ignorant women besides, it could increase contempt and breed resentment and further strengthen those opposed to women becoming successful. Men DO polarise slanging matches and, in general, reverse the role of aggressively stating things such as, women; are overstepping THEIR mark, should be at home watching children, should be in the kitchen, and so on.
On the other hand some women tend not to help themselves in reaching for equality. Many have conditioning to think the same insulting terms used by men such as, you know who wears the trousers in that house or, if a woman is particularly good at her job, she thinks and behaves like a man. Many women also encourage boys to behave like their sexist fathers by allowing them to refer to females as birds, chicks, bints etc. Perhaps we should discourage Action Man for boys and Barbie for girls in those influential years.
In the past it was frowned upon for women to be educated. Only the upper classes attend universities. Today education is, thankfully, open to all and women now gain among the highest marks in many institutions yet, these same females rank second best when it comes to applying themselves in or reaching the top jobs. It is said that wider cultural differences are responsible for boys losing ground in educational rankings and male prejudices deterring women in higher roles.