Less than a third of Australian working women feel they are being treated equally, and one in 10 believe they have experienced sexual harassment, according to a landmark national survey, reports the ABC.
Researchers at the University of Sydney surveyed more than 2,000 women and 500 men across Australia aged between 16 and 40 for the Women and the Future of Work study into women’s attitudes and experiences in the workplace.
The study, writes By Brooke Wylie, found just 31 per cent of women surveyed believed men and women were treated equally at work, while 50 per cent of men felt there was equality in the workplace.
When asked about gender inequality in the workplace, one Brisbane-based respondent said:
“I went and had a meeting with a GP the other day.
“And as I was walking out, he just said to one of the other doctors, ‘Oh gosh, she is a tasty little bitch isn’t she?’
“I did feel disrespected by it because I don’t think you talk about male colleagues that way.”
A woman in the legal profession in Sydney detailed her experience:
“I think a lot of people like to pretend they have equality within the legal industry and I think there certainly isn’t.
“I’ve had experiences at a very basic level where a magistrate said to me ‘Prove to me you’re more than blonde hair and blue eyes’.”
One of the report’s co-authors Professor Rae Cooper said the results about gender inequality in the workplace were alarming but, in some respects, not surprising.
“Something that’s really shocking in our findings is that more than half of all of the women we surveyed think that our workplaces are unequal, and think that men are treated better than they are at work,” she said.
“In some respects it’s not surprising that women have that view, because we know that women face some really serious gaps and traps in their work and in their careers.”
The survey revealed young women often felt “disrespected” by senior colleagues because of their gender, and this was the case for both highly paid professionals and and low-paid workers.
Four in five women ranked being “treated with respect” as an important factor in the workplace.
Harassment ‘alive and well’ in Australian workplaces
The study also found 10 per cent of female respondents reported to have experienced sexual harassment on the job.
“Physical touching and harassment is certainly alive and well in our workplaces,” Professor Cooper said.
“Of our 2,000 women, 200 are reporting to us that presently they are experiencing sexual harassment.
“There’s a lot of underreporting of sexual harassment, so it’s probably actually higher.
“It’s a really common experience and either women have experienced it themselves, or they can talk about having been witness to that, or having friends and colleagues who have gone through it.
“Ranging from jokes and derogatory speaking to people right down to the end of what we’d probably characterise as being physical and assault.”
Some groups of women reported higher levels of harassment.
The survey found 18 per cent of women with a disability, 16 per cent of women from ethnically or linguistically diverse backgrounds, and 14 per cent of women currently studying reported having experienced harassment.
The 111-page report also found workplaces were ill-equipped to meet the career aspirations of young women.
About 90 per cent of women surveyed said flexibility in the workplace was important, but only 16 per cent strongly agreed they had access to the flexibility needed. Only 40 per cent said they had access to training to better equip them for jobs.