“No group is immune”: Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. Photo: Ben RushtonOne woman was told to consider having an abortion when she announced her pregnancy to her boss while another was told she would have to choose between her baby and her job in shocking stories which have emerged from a study into discrimination against parents in the workforce.
The Australian Human Rights Commission report, to be released on Friday, found that one in two women and one in four men have experienced discrimination relating to their family obligations.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said the findings shocked her. The report makes wide ranging recommendations to improve awareness of workplace rights among both employers and employees.
The survey found 22 per cent of women who had suffered discrimination opted out of the workplace entirely, Ms Broderick saying lack of support for parents was affecting productivity.
‘‘Three areas need to be strengthened for women’s workforce participation to increase and one is they have got to be able to work in non-discriminatory environments,’’ she said.
‘‘They have to have access to a strong paid parental leave scheme and they need affordable, accessible childcare. They are all connected.’’
The survey of 2000 women and 1000 men found that discrimination was widespread across all sectors and levels of seniority, although workers in large companies were more likely to suffer than those in small organisations.
‘‘From the factory floor to the most senior managers, no group is immune,’’ she said.
‘‘At the senior levels we often heard women being told: ‘Your choice: the job or the baby’ to the woman who is not allowed a toilet break. I mean she’s pregnant, for heaven’s sake. A lot of these views are coming from female managers. Women with children. I found that shocking.’’
Ruth, a general manager with a top 50 company, was informed she could no longer have a senior role if she wanted a family.
Her female manager told her, ‘‘I needed to decide what I wanted – a family or a senior role in the company, you can’t have both, it’s a myth you can have both’’.
The Sydney woman, whose name has been changed, was booted out of a talent program when ‘‘the only thing that had changed was my pregnancy/child status’’ and her role was ‘‘dumbed down’’ to the point where she was asked to organise table placements at functions to be attended by her boss.
Another woman was called ‘‘placenta brain’’ by her male colleagues and another was told she was a ‘‘bad mother and a bad employee’’ for trying to work while raising a family.
A man’s request for paternity leave was met with derision, his boss saying: ‘‘That’s for the mum.’’
Ms Broderick said the findings show there was a need for greater awareness about workplace rights and made a case for tackling negative stereotypes about workers with caring responsibilities.
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