Sex Discrimination Essay, Research Paper
Despite Legislation for Equal Opportunities, sexism is still in evidence in
Sexism is a particular concern for society when considering it’s effect in the
workplace. Sexism has always been a particular problem in the labour
market especially with the formation of capitalism. In the last half of the
20th century this has been especially highlighted due to the increase of
woman entering the labour market. This aroused the need for a legislation
for equal opportunity for both sex’s to be passed in 1975. It stated that
discrimination of a persons sex whether male or female was unlawful in
employment, union membership, education, provision of goods, services,
advertisements and pay.
In this essay the discussion will cover subjects such as why woman hold a
large percentage of the work force in companies but hardly any seem to
have any power. Obstacles in the way of woman in careers, ifwomen
prefer different jobs to men, equal pay for both sexes and what’s changed
since the law was made an Act of Parliament. This essay will only
concentrate on the problem of sex discrimination in the U.K.
Sex discrimination means that a person gets treated in a less favorable
manner because of their sex. A good example of this is to take two fictional
characters, Mr. and Mrs. Jones. The Jones’s want to go swimming, they get
to the swimming baths where they find that Mrs. Jones is charged an O.A.P.
price while Mr. Jones has to pay the full price even though they are both the
same age. This is because woman become pensioners at the age of sixty
while men cannot gain the benefits until they are sixty five.
Sex discrimination is not only present within the older generation but is also
evident throughout the entire age range. Before legislation was passed in the
1960’s most young girls left school after O-levels to receive a strong social
message that their careers where already setup for them as marriage and
motherhood (Pascall 1995: 2). The only jobs they would be getting were
tedious low paid jobs (a Secretary) and be only looking forward to when
they would meet a man, have a family and settle down. Statistics show that
in 1971, 51% of married women did not work compared to 29% in 1993
(Pascall 1995: 3). Women now hold 46% of the labor work force, with
young women seeing housework more of a part-time rather than a full time
job. This is an enormous social change for the family giving women less
dependence on marriages which are increasingly falling apart day by day
and a greater command over the increasing area of technology and resources.
With more women getting jobs, it encourages other woman who were reluctant
to move into the labour market to do the same and become more career
Although woman now make up 46% of the English work force only 3% of
woman hold chief executive positions. This has only increased by 2% in the
last 20 years (Mildrew 1992: 17). A point to be raised here is that as the
hierarchy of management positions increases, the amount of women in these
positions decreases. This quite clearly means that woman do not hold the
prestige and influence that men do, as their sector of high ranking jobs is so
small. We’ve all heard men say at some point, “I just don’t understand
women”, yet there are only 5 woman High Court Judges out of 91 men and 28
women circuit judges out of 496 men in the Judiciary in 1993 (Pascall 1995:
Thanks to media attention women do have access to careers. In 1980 woman
made up 12-14% of professional and managerial jobs. In 1990 the figure had
raised to 32% managers/administrators and 40% professionals. On the other
hand women seem to fall into different sectors to men, they make up 62% of
teachers and librianship but only 25% of business and financial professionals
and shockingly only 5% of engineers and technologists. Teaching is a qualified
position, 90% of primary school teachers and 60% of secondary teachers are
women but 50% primary and 80% secondary school heads are men. This is the
same right the way across the specturm, in university only 5% of professors
are women (Pascall 1995: 3).
This segregation of gender in different jobs can be separated into two
dimensions, vertical and horizontal. Vertical segregation is the segregation
of gender in the hierarchy of power in a certain job. Woman tend to be found at
the low end of vertical segregation in professional occupations. Horizontal
segregation is the segregation of gender in the spread of different
Woman are usually found dominating teaching while men dominate
engineering. Data from the Eurostat Labour survey shows whenwoman break
horizontal segregation by increasing their presencein a particular
occupation, vertical segregation becomes securely established. This is shown
by the fact that 3 per cent of all clerks and typists in 1911 were woman.
By 1971 the situation had reversed and woman dominated this area. As soon as
the number of woman increased, office work was down graded and became a low
paid dead end job by deskilling. Theactivities where broken down to suit what was
thought as women’s abilities (Mildrew 1992: 12).
Educational qualifications are a must for anyone who wants a career (man or
woman). 20 years ago girls would have left education at the end of their O-
levels being norm. In the 1991/92 GCSE results 42.7% of girls compared with
34.1% of boys received 5 or more A-C grades and 16.1% compared with
14.4% of boys received 3 or more passes at A-Level. The number of woman
students at university has tripled in the last 21 years which is almost twice
the increase for male, making up 48% of the student population. At degree level
46-48% of medicine/business and financial students are women but only 12%
take engineering or technology. These men / woman dominated areas are
clearly seen, simply by looking in classrooms at secondary or university
education. 91% of sociology classes are female dominated and about 90% of
computer science / physics, classes are male dominated (Pascall 1995: 4).
The Sex Discrimination Act is in power to help woman in a number of ways
and lets them into previously closed doors. However due to the fact that most
legal institutions are male dominated it is not quite as clear cut as it may
seem on the outside. The law is often interpreted restrictivly meaning a woman may
have to fight an unequal battle with her employer and even if they come out
victorious little compensation is received and she may be victimized at work
in the aftermath.
A major need for the discrimination act is to try to help break down the
presence of what is known as theglass ceiling’. This is where men get
promoted and go further up the managerial hierarchy while woman get to a
certain position and can not climb any further. Although they can see the men
climbing further up the company they cannot break the glass ceiling
themselves (Gregg 1991: 8).
A study called Indsco’ in a large industrial conglomerate lead by Rosabeth
Moss Kanter (A management professor at Harvard) in 1977, recognized that
people who work in large organizations have a tendency to hire and promote
those who resemble themselves (Mildrew 1992: 17).
Unfortunately some men feel uncomfortable with women being their equals
and since men dominate managerial levels they have much more control over
peoples careers beneath them. If men do not recognize women as their equals,
then women are overlooked for transfer or promotion, findthemselves
directed intofemale’ job areas and are not offered a challenge. Men use
strategies to cope with women such as patronizing them, not listening to them
seriously, being over protective and shielding them from dangerous situations
so they never have the knowledge of how to cope (Allen 1993 p26).
The Employment Act 1978 gives women going through pregnancy and child
birth the right to have time off with no loss of position. This is only given
however to woman who have a career involving full time and continuous
employment and stops just 29 weeks after childbirth (Pascall 1995: 4).
Parental leave, flexible hours and care of the child in sickness and health is
left for the employer and employee to discuss.
This is a very complex problem because once a child is born it must have the
proper care and attention. Nursery provisions for women who want to go back
to work are appalling. Only 2% of work places have nursery facilities and the
male dominated government seem to think that the problem doesn’t exist!
Shocking statistics show that for every 14 females that work full time there
is only one which has children between the ages of 0 and 15 years old. i.e. There
is 4,200,000 woman with no children in full time work and only 300,000
woman with children between the age of 0 to 15 (Pascall 1995: 4). Taking into
account that most woman would like to have at least one baby, there is going
to be a lot of woman in low paid jobs. Professions such as medicine which
require an intensive course of work to build up the knowledge for the career
has actually implied a ban on woman with children. Even traditional woman’s
jobs such as nursing do not have a career that can comfortably take on board
a woman with her off-spring.
Since for most women all this is a bit to much they will most certainly turn
to part-time employment which will be punished by lower grading and pay.
In 1975 the equal pay act came into power. This made it illegal to offer
different wages for the same work on the grounds of sex. Men’s full time
wages over woman’s fell drastically. The gap has been narrowing ever since.
The New Earnings Survey (NES) shows that in 1980, men’s pay stood 40%
more on average over women’s and in 1992 that gap had narrowed to 25%.
Woman in low paid jobs, where before were paid much less then men now
have leveled up to the same wage or sometimes higher. However in high flying
jobs there still is a large wage difference. The NES showed that woman’s
hourly earnings where on an average 70.9% of men’s in 1990. The problem
being is that since woman go into different areas of work than men it may be
very difficult to compare the skills and amount of work they do to claim equal
We can see that even with the law, there are many loop holes that clever
employees can seek. This isn’t the only thing that stands in the way of woman
who want a career, there are many other obstacles. Society is a very powerful
instrument, people get molded by the society they are in. It changes the way
people think and act. Also (From personal experiance) many children are
directed to appropriatetraditional’ subjects by their secondary
socialization in schools particularly byold fashioned’ teachers.
Unfortunately the law is not beneficial to everyone. It is not allowed to be
broken, but there are numerous ways of stretching it! A good example of this
is D.Quinnen vs Mr. J.H. Hovell. Mr. Hovell hired 2 woman and 1 man to
work in his store at Christmas time. The 2 woman got paid more than the man.
Mr. Quinnen complained and was dismissed, he claimed equal pay and sex
Mr. Quinnen took this case to the industrial tribunal (I.T.). At a preliminary
hearing the tribunal dismissed Mr. Quinnens claims on the grounds that he was
not employed by Mr. Hovell as the definition of employment was that there
was acontract of service’ which Mr. Quinnens did not have. Mr. Quinnens
actually then to took his case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal which
awarded him ?530 (E.O.C 1989: 63), but most people would not take the case
this far after getting turned away by the I.T. A useful rule for woman is that
the law works on the rule of precedent, where if a woman has won a case before
almost in the same position as the woman who may want to go to court now,
the previous case will be used as a base for the prevailing case. With this in
mind woman can almost see what the outcome of the case will be before even
going to court, saving themselves victimization from male counterparts.
From what we have seen it appears that male dominance is to be blamed for
women’s under achievement in the work place. However this may be a one
sided view. Once a woman gets a job in power she may adopt the I had to
work hard to get where I am so why shouldn’t others’ attitude and will
discourage other woman from taking responsibility. Woman also tend to be
more cautious then men, a survey by British Gas showed that when a
opportunity came up in their company for a job with more power the women
would only apply for it if they fitted the whole job criteria unlike men who
applied for it even if they didn’t fill half the description (Allen 1993:30).
The other obstacle that woman would seem to set up for themselves is their own
confidence. A study taped seven university faculty meetings and found that
men’s contributions before someone broke in ranged from 11 to 17 seconds
while woman’s where 3 to 10 seconds. Women also use deferential tag lines
like “Don’t you think?” and “Isn’t it?” far more often then men and are
reluctant to delegate work so they overload themselves (Mildrew 1992: 18).
In reflection to the examples given evidence shows that the effectiveness of
introducing the numerous acts of parliament have not been entirely successful
on implementation. Trends show that through out education females have been
directed towards traditional feminine subjects. Lack of fundamental education
needed to back up university courses have reflected women’s immobility to
achieve positions of high statues in the whole range of occupations. Mature
woman share this problem as lack of qualifications in appropriate subjects
prevents them from achieving powerful positions.
Clearly, it can be seen that women are getting the same wage as men in low
paying jobs since the Sexual Discrimination act was passed in 1975 but there
is still a long way to go until woman in managerial jobs get an equal wage to
there counterparts. The fact that women are entering different job areas to
men e.g. Teaching / Social working, means that even if a woman takes a company
to court because she believes she is not getting paid as much as a male
employee, even though she is using the same skills and has the same work
load, this is very hard to prove if the two employees are not doing the same
With most woman wanting babies, and leaving full time work to have a child
and probably only taking up part-time work after it is born, it gives
directors of companies a very bad opinion of women in powerful jobs as they believe
that as soon as the woman has worked her way up she will leave the company
due to maternity leave and never be able to keep up the same quality of work
as before. Women tend to naturally set obstacles in their own way and it seems
that the only way to get a powerful, influential, prestigious job is to never
have a baby and are never get married.
The law is not much use for woman in power as there is so many males above
them in any company. The usefulness of the law can be seen however in the
fact ofprecedent’ where any previous case of a woman taking a company to
court for sexual discrimination or equal pay and winning may be considered
in a similar court case.
The glass ceiling is a major obstacle preventing woman from achieving high
status professions. However since the law has been in power I believe that the
glass ceiling is cracking but it’s going to take a lot more years to see any
kind of noticeable improvements in woman’s careers.