Belfast Telegraph

Women still fighting battle for equality

Editor's Viewpoint

With Arlene Foster as First Minister in Northern Ireland, Nicola Sturgeon First Minister in Scotland and Theresa May front-runner to be the next Prime Minister of the UK, it might seem that the sky is the limit for women.

But in many organisations there is still a glass ceiling with women grossly under-represented in executive roles and also more likely to be in lower-paid positions.

Even worse, the case brought by two women working in the Agri-food and Bio-sciences Institute - a non departmental public body - shows that Neanderthal attitudes still exist in the workplace.

The women won a case for sexual discrimination and the tribunal heard that comments were passed about one of the women's appearance, and both were told that a man on the same grade as them was the "top dog" in their workplace. He was permitted to attend meetings that they were barred from and which impacted on their ability to do their jobs.

Even when they complained to HR and management nothing was done to alleviate the situation.

This was a disgraceful state of affairs and the women were quite right to bring their employer to a tribunal, and were rewarded with a payout totalling more than £47,000.

It seems that attempts to eradicate the tendency to treat women as second-class citizens in some workplaces is glacially slow in bearing fruit.

There should be zero tolerance among employers of discrimination against any employee irrespective of gender, but especially of women, who are more likely to be subjected to comments about appearance.

All discrimination is odious, but when it affects a body of people that makes up more than 50% of the population it is particularly reprehensible.

Employers who tolerate discrimination in the workplace are as much to blame as those who actually implement unfair practices or behave inappropriately. There is no point in having equality guidelines in place unless they are put into practice and monitored rigorously.

Otherwise, as happened in this case, those who suffer discrimination will undergo personal agonies in coming to work. One of the women felt she had to leave the organisation, and the awards to them took into account injury to their feelings and distress. The verdict should encourage women to take on their employers if they are mistreated.

Belfast Telegraph


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