Recent Q&A discussions have addressed issues of female political underrepresentation. ‘Phew’ you think, ‘I am glad I don’t work in Parliament’ – and aren’t we all. Yet, you may soon find that your workplace may not be so dissimilar to Parliament, after all.

Last week… on Q&A

This Monday, Anna Bligh, the first woman to lead a party to victory for a State election, spoke about the brutality she endured as a woman in Australian public life. She encouraged young women to stay in parties long enough to be appointed in leadership positions to ensure the ‘best and brightest’ were partaking in decision making, despite the ‘niggling’ in relation to gender.

Likewise, Kelly O’Dwyer in last week’s Q&A raised the underrepresentation of women in Parliament as a democratic issue. She said that Parliament should be reflective of the community it serves: if there are 50% of women in society, there should be 50% of women in Parliament.

Discrimination in the political realm has thus been brought to light. These discussions have, yet again, not only highlighted the factual reality but may also have pinpointed one of the underlying reasons for the problem: discriminatory behaviour.

However, as easy as it may be to denounce Parliament’s failing, it is not the only entity where women are underrepresented. Consider your own workplace. Is there a similar number of women and men? Are women and men consistently treated equally?

Progress in the US?

Earlier this month, a study in the US highlighted simultaneously an increase in social awareness of discrimination and an absence of long terms results. The paper finds that women graduates’ pay is superior to men graduates’ pay in 29 disciplines. For example, women between the age of 22 and 27 working as business analysts earn 7% more than men; women in construction services earn 8% more than men in that sector.

Despite these positive results, the salary advantage of women in these industries is lost for the  mid-career group aged 35 to 45 in nearly every area. These additional findings bring us right back to reality where a woman earns US$0.78 for each US$1 earned by a man.

The report was uncertain about the reasons for the mid-career shift. The researchers speculate it to be the result of career interruption to have kids and of discrimination.

Brandish your policy

One of the main ways to fight against discrimination is to introduce and enforce an anti-discrimination policy in your workplace. It enhances the company culture by clearly outlining what actions classify as discrimination and to emphasise that these actions will not be tolerated. It acts both preventatively and to direct a potential victim’s course of action.

The anti-discrimination policy may also be part of your company’s compliance with legislation. Anti-discrimination legislation aims to uphold equal opportunity and to ensure people are not preferred on the basis of irrelevant characteristics such as gender, sexual orientation and race.

If you are an employer, a policy may contribute to protecting you from liability for an employee’s discriminatory behaviour by banning actions that could lead to discrimination. For example, you may introduce a policy to avoid asking job applicants about their age.

An anti-discrimination policy is a valuable tool to address discrimination in your workplace. Introduce an anti-discrimination policy with the help of LawPath to prevent discriminatory behaviour and protect you from legal action.

For more information you can contact the a LawPath Consultant on 1800LAWPATH.

Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of LawPath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.