The Guardian • Issue #1952


Gender inequality in the workplace

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1952

Despite the achievements in the long struggle for gender equality in Australia, significant structural and cultural injustices remain, including widespread gendered violence.

As described in a report by the Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) titled Women’s Rights at Work, their research has shown that “gendered violence is endemic in our workplaces.”

“Gendered violence is actions and behaviours which express power inequalities between women and men and cause physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm to women. Gendered violence is violence perpetrated against women because they are women. It also includes violence perpetuated against those who do not conform to dominant gender stereotypes or those who do not conform to socially accepted gender roles.”

Gendered workplace violence can include put-downs, verbal abuse, harassment, intimidation, ostracism, sexual assault, rape, and many other forms.

The researchers conducted many discussions with working women and found that forty-four per cent of respondents reported facing discrimination, sixty-four per cent have faced bullying and harassment, and nineteen per cent made the decision to leave a workplace due to “an unsafe work environment.”

Gendered violence is typically handled poorly in Australian workplaces. According to WorkSafe, this has led many women to have no confidence in their employers when it comes to prevention and action. This is unacceptable, and the lack of understanding and willingness from employers is harmful. Inaction or poor handling of these abuses is detrimental to mental health and in some cases leads to people taking their own lives.

Misogynistic, homophobic, and other hate-fuelled workplace cultures are some of the causes of this violence.

In their report, the VTHC pointed to the role of union members, delegates, and officials in working to call out this violence and support its victims. This is an important part of stopping gendered workplace violence and building solidarity.

Gender inequalities, in the workplace and elsewhere, suit ruling class interests by pitting workers against one another and justifying further exploitation of women on top of that faced by working men. Furthermore, inequalities in the family and home serve to integrate exploitation of unpaid labour, such as housework and child-rearing, into the capitalist system. It is in the interest of the entire working class to combat the prejudices and behaviours which perpetuate this inequality.

The COVID-19 pandemic response has relied heavily on frontline workers such as nurses, aged care workers, teachers etc to ensure the health and safety of millions (and billions globally). In Australia, workers in these industries are disproportionately female and disproportionately underpaid compared to male-dominated industries with comparable levels of qualification. These industries are already labour-intensive under normal circumstances; during a pandemic, the likes of which the world has not seen in a century, this has been further exacerbated.

International Working Women’s Day is a day for celebrating the achievements of women and the hard struggles that have been won. We must continue to work towards ending gendered violence and inequality in all its forms.

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