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When managing diversity is said, we may think of ethnicity, origin of race, and may be gender or other factors; however, diversity meanings are much broader than that. Diversity is generally defined as acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and celebrating differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and public assistance status (Esty, et al., 1995). Diversity at workplace has taken wide range of consideration, discussion, and implemented rules. Here, I’m going to tackle specifically the issues of women at work place. Women on their path of struggle to maintain equality have gone through hurdle ways as well they have created milestones. ( Marquez. J ,2008) As of today, we commemorate Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run for US. vice president on a major party ticket. She passed away on (26/March/2011). She was a symbol of women successes. The pursuant of equal opportunity requires hard work at different levels; by understanding of women needs, legislatures, reformations of out dated rules, and redefining social norms if we take UK as an example we will find women still suffering from unequal pay and, increasingly(Traynor, I. 2010),
Women’s workforce in historical perspective
Historically, Britain’s women have been deprived of equal opportunities at workplace. Even though, the picture of gender equality at workplace seems to be complicated, but for many factors women have to have equal access to work, pay, promotion, and for other incentives. (Hudson. P, 2008 ) In the past women rights have been belittled for the argument of their limited role in public life at large. Women main responsibilities could hardly be seen outside of their traditional family chores. In addition to that factor, there are other cultural and social factors that hindered women from achieving higher standards at workplace.( Goffinet.F, 2009)
In 1842, the parliament passed a law to ban women from working in mines and factories for long hours. However as people argue that the Victorian era was a time of change, women were restricted to specific jobs such as nursing and midwifery however, this era saw the rise of Florence Nightingale , who eased the way for women to pursue the career of nursing and to be more confident and effective in the society. Worman D. 2005),
The domestic service of all kinds had the major interest of female employments (close to 50% in specific areas such as the capital: London), then the textile and the clothing sector has ranked almost in second rank. Also, they were having a good participation degree in metal wares, pottery and in other simple jobs like laundry work, cleaning, confectionery, brewing and retailing, without forgetting that they were largely concentrated in particular industries based in the regions of the country. For example, the cotton and woollen industries of south Lancashire and west Yorkshire. ( BBC ,2011)
After the Victorian era, in the period between 1930-1950 women were having a prominent role in the textiles, pottery and clothing sectors. In addition to that, women provided cheap and adaptive workforce. Result in, many new technologies began to adapted with the idea of contracting with the opposite sex workforce rather than relying solely on male workforce.
In fact, because they were novices working in new sectors, they were all trying proving themselves in the face of skeptics and opponents through providing their hard effort which led to achieve high level of productivity. Unfortunately, employers were occupying a large part of opponents and skeptics and they had many justifications that help them to avoid hiring women, like degree of absenteeism, marriage, pregnancy, childbirth and other personal problems holidays as well.
However, the number of those opponents and skeptics has decreased and women started to hold more respectable in the workplace society after that significant increasing in the number of women graduating high school, this was in the period between 1950s and late 1970s. ( BBC ,2011)
The beginning of the evolution
The first World War could be considered to be the turning point in the history of women`s struggle in the workplace. During the war, millions of men were recruited to fight abroad and this has created a considerable gap in the job market. The state felt that there was a need to fill this gap and women were the perfect solution.( Fitzgerald. M ,2010)
Recruiting agencies and the media played a major role in facilitating this approach by the government of that time. Women also proved that they were competent at the work place and managed to work under intense condition and contribute to the overall growth of the country. However after the war ended, women were quite liberalized from the Victorian era stereotype of women, they had more confidence and they managed to prove their skeptics and opponents wrong and made it clear that once they are out an working , it will be difficult for them to go back. (Traynor. I, 2010),
Ten years after the first World War, the Representation of People Act was passed by the parliament in 1928, which gave full rights to women, including the right to vote and work etc. this was a result of several campaigns led by women rights activists over the years like Millicent Fawcett and Emmiline Pankhurst of the UK women`s suffragettes movement. They managed to succeed in giving women their full rights by public demonstration, propaganda and violent protests, however by the passing of this law women became more liberalized, but they still face the different kinds of discrimination in the work place until this day.( Fitzgerald M 2010),
After the Second World War and towards the end of 1970s, the world witnessed an incredible change. The number of women’s workforce increased due to more awareness and the proportion of educated women became higher, which made the participation of women in the work place the basics for the family and society and even economies.( BBC news 2006),
In today’s life, women are seen as successful figures on all walks of life. Women are politicians, nurses, scientists, and the list goes on. There is no valid argument which could be legitimate on putting women on a degraded position. Women have achieved high standards in contributing to the wellbeing of humankind. United Nations Charters have granted equality for women at workplace. Discrimination against women has been out lawed in many civil societies But the claim that women still face gender discrimination is valid. There is a still subtle discrimination women face at workplace. This includes sexual, racial and religious discrimination. The number of cases of sexual harassment has doubled in the recent years, with more women leaving their jobs after reporting incidence of sexual harassment or due to pregnancy and maternity leave.( BBC, 2006)
Because of their biological nature, women deserve to have special considerations. Women go through different changes, pregnancy, parenting, and menopause. Within those times, women physical and emotional capacities are deterred. They all should be granted fair consideration during maternity and family based duties. There are mounting concerns regarding women of color at workplace. At society at large women of color, immigrants as an example, are struggling to achieve as others)) Sexual harassment against women at workplace is an imminent threat It is estimated that in UK 50% of women in employment are, or have been, subject to sexual harassment of some form or other ( Hudson P. 2009).
According to the Equal Opportunities Commission EOC, half of women in the workplace have complained of some form of sexual harassment.
The sexual harassment in the workplace is receiving increasing attention recently, particularly when participation rate of women in the labour force is rising.
The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNDFW) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome or unwanted verbal, non-verbal, physical or visual conduct based on sex or of a sexual nature; the acceptance or rejection of which affects an individual’s employment”. There are many types of sexual harassment; the most famous are;.(Susan .M, 2009)
– Serial Harassment: In this case, harassers plan their approaches very carefully, and then attack in private.
– Stalking: the harasser follows the victim home to his/her home to threaten them and gain control
– Power-player: if the harasser has more power than the victim they will ask for a sexual favour if the
victim does not cooperate then they will be pressurized
– Situational Harassment: Some harassers that maybe in a stressful situation think that sex will eliminate their frame of mind.
– Great Gallant: Usually, it comes as a verbal harassment. It focuses on personal appearances. (Susan .M 2009)
The UNIFEM 2006 report states that between 40 and 50 percent of women in the European Union have reported some form of sexual harassment or unacceptable sexual behaviour in the workplace (included verbal, physical or sexual). All forms of sexual harassment is covered by the Sex discrimination Act 1975 which protects women from discrimination on the grounds of sex or marriage , under the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations also, it makes it a criminal offence for a person to pursue a course of conduct (including speech) that amounts to harassment of another as was this case
“I was forced to quit my job because of constant harassment from my boss,” says Reena (name changed), a young woman working for an international organization. Reena decided to quit her stable job after her employer started sexually harassing her. “He touched me unnecessarily, asked me to accompany him to dinners and made me feel uncomfortable,” she complains. This is the plight of many women who join the workforce, not only in one place but the world over.( Khushbu .A 2010)
Mothers and other colours discrimination
Job discrimination against mothers resembles other forms of race and gender discrimination in that mothers experience different employment terms than other workers and many must endure workplace comments and behaviors that are openly hostile and unwelcoming. Even without words, Sarah Clarke (real name withheld) got her employer’s message loud and clear. Working in the male-dominated field of finance, Clarke recalls, “When I went on maternity leave, I said I wanted to work from home [during my leave]â€¦[but] they wouldn’t allow me to call into meetings. And when I came back to work, I didn’t have a desk.” Kimberly. T,2008)
A review carried out by the Equal opportunities Commission suggested that women with young children face more discrimination in the workplace than disabled people or those from ethnic minorities. A partnered mother with a child aged under 11 is 45% less likely to be in work than a partnered man. The review also showed 7% of working women were either dismissed, made redundant or left their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination (Dyer ,C. 2008)
Also A survey of 122 recruitment agencies that revealed more than 70% of them had been asked by clients to avoid hiring pregnant women or those of childbearing age
According to the EOC study, most of the women working in the retail and consumer services sectors were likely to have been dismissed or made redundant due to pregnancy-related discrimination. Others areas where women are more likely to have experienced discrimination include management and sales sectors ( Francoise, G, 2009)
Women who had been working for their employer for less than a year when pregnant; and women working in establishments with fewer than 10 staff were also have been victims of discrimination . As was in the case of Ms Jones made redundant by an engineering company while on her maternity leave and she made a claim for sex discrimination.( Laurie, S.2011)
There was also some indication that women who were treated badly during pregnancy were less likely to return to work. However, according to the study, only a small percentage of those who experienced discrimination took any steps to resolve it. The law in this section has long been established on the ground of pregnancy women it is less favourable treatment on the form of sex discrimination. (BBC, 2007)
Nevertheless, in 2005, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was (Amendment) to make this protection clear and to confirms that discrimination will arise if a woman suffers less favourable treatment either on her pregnancy or because she wants to exercise her right. the Case law has established that an employer who refused a woman on her time off work or return from maternity leave is probably to be in break of law and the provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act1975.( Laurie S.2011)
It was the perception in the 60’s and early 70’s that there were believed to be in industry, men’s jobs and women jobs. This was old fashioned and it failed to take account of the ability of both sexes and was discriminatory. The Act sought to prevent this happening. There were many examples of cases where employers would say “women can’t do this particular job because it is too strenuous or too difficult etc”.( Angla .S 2010).
Section 47C of the Employment Rights Act 1996 also protects a woman from suffering a detriment on the grounds of her pregnancy. This can be , resign Insensitive remarks Unfair selection for redundancy.( Hudson P. 2009).
On the other hand, other colour women have the same problem. Trevor Philips in the Equalities Review (2007) says that in the United Kingdom 30% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are less likely to be in work than white women of similar ages and qualification and this could be related to racial and religious discrimination in the workplace. Whereas , there are legislations in the work place to ensure the fair treatment of employees regardless of their religion or race . These are created by EU recommendation and adopted by the UK government this Regulations cover all religions and beliefs .Race Relations Act 1976. Also the UK legislations state that the racial hatred against a group of persons in UK defined by reference to colour, race, nationality or ethnic origins by the Public Order Act 1986 Section (BBC,2007)
The Race Relations Act 1976 applies to discrimination on the grounds of colour, race, nationality and ethnic and national origins. It applies in Great Britain but not in Northern Ireland. Religious discrimination is not explicitly covered in Britain but separate legislation covers this in Northern Ireland. “Ethnic origin”, however, has been interpreted broadly to cover groups with a common or presumed common identity such as Jews or Sikhs. There are important exceptions to the legislation which, for example, allow discrimination on grounds of nationality to preserve immigration controls. Both direct and indirect discrimination are covered by the legislation which applies to all stages of employment: arrangements made for deciding who is offered a job. (Eurofound 2009 )
Is governed by section 21 of the Public Order Act 1986 which states that it will be an offence for a person to publish any material which is abusive or insulting. (University of Bradford 2009)
The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000This places public authorities under a general duty to promote race equality of opportunity, reduce unlawful discrimination and good relations between people of different racial groups
Discrimination against women can have a devastating effect on the economy as it results in a big loss of talent and capable individuals, who are able to contribute to the overall economy of the country by paying taxes etc. The Inequalities report the shows that the unemployment of women costs the country about £28bn a year compared to the under-employment of disabled people about £9bn. This shows how significant is discrimination against women along with its other form can contribute to the stagnation of the economy.(BBC,2007)
Women’s workforce: at the present time
Because of globalization, mass immigration and the digital age, women have been relocated in different places. They face workplace environment with additional challenge to ensure that they require additional consideration. Workplace should be able to understand and satisfy women needs based on their different cultures, religions, and other beliefs Worman D. 2005),
It is true that women are now entering the workforce in equal numbers of men, but they haven’t compared enough and still now there are many outstanding issues such as: gender discrimination, Pay gap, mother’s discrimination, other color women and Sexual stalking/harassment.
Women at the present time still are faced with numerous difficulties. According to many changing factors in the workplace, women have to adapt new strategy to face the change happened to them in the case of inequality. (Fassinger. R,2008)
Other challenges: Religion & Culture
The world is rapidly changing. This constitutes that workplace should be a healthy place for women to be gender biased free environment. New trends among women have created new challenges. Women alone cannot fight centuries old of inherited discrimination. Government, employers, and employees should enforce laws at workplace to safeguard women rights and liberties. Civil societies should rise up to the rights of women at workplace. Since the backbone of the family is the woman, we all should contribute to safer, equal opportunity at workplace.( Daniels 2008),
It is widely believed that the religion and culture is one of the main threats to women’s work, and this point of view must be respected because it is supported by contemporary and strong evidences could not be denied, for example in south Asian communities in the UK, most women find it difficult to pursue careers that somehow contradicts the belief or the culture of their own community. For example, south Asian women will find it hard to work in the army or the police, because culturally it seen as a male job and few women choose to pursue it as a career. Women will be faced with much scepticism from their families and within their communities. Some people will also argue that their religion and beliefs prohibits women from working in specific settings or not being able to work at all. In the case of Islam, the holy Quran states that women have the right to work and seek knowledge side by side with men; it also shows evidence of women who were able to work and pursue careers and succeeds. However religious leaders argue and their interpretations differ, the more fundamentalists will have a more strict view in regarding the rights of women to work. But the mainstream scholars will have an opposite view and supported by strong evidence.( Hudson P. 2009),
6. Supporters of the Issue:
There are a many international organisations that support women’s rights around the world and seek to achieve the most basic rights of women in workplace, home and community as whole.
perhaps the most prominent example of this is the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) which has many achievements in the defence of the rights of women in throughout the world, in Egypt for instance, because Egyptian women sometimes found themselves in the face of gender discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace or violence at home; so the organisation provided special treatment for them, they can bring their complaint to the National Women’s Complaints Office and There is a network of good lawyers, trained by UNIFEM on women’s human rights. ( UN Women 2010)
Throughout history, women fought for their rights in the workplace. In the past, they were denied their simple rights including their right to work and believed that their ultimate place to be at home taking care of the family. In the later ages, there was turning points,, which enabled women to break the shell and surpass their limitations and achieve their presence in the workplace. As I stated earlier, the first world War and the representation of people`s act was the main reason behind the liberalisation of women. After the second world war , women started to achieve more and became more effective within the societies as people became more aware of women`s right.
all previous evidence tell us that the women in the current era enjoy of wider range of personal freedom, and it has become normal to see women ascend the top positions in the most sensitive and important areas in all around the world, Even in areas that are not considered a democracy, we find that there are a notable development in women situation whether in work or society as a whole, despite being a bit slow for advanced countries.
This does not mean the end of challenges that women face, there are still many outstanding issues that need to cooperation of everyone to solve them, whether by increasing the pressure on decision-makers in the world to issue the appropriate decisions to reduce the rate of these problems, and also by awareness of the unconscious peoples to develop their way of thinking and make them think in a positive way.
In fact, women still have a long way to enhance their situation in workplace more and more, therefore, clearly change doesn’t happen overnight but it needs hard work from all parties; governments, peoples, social institutions, media institutions and private organisations.
The world dynamics are changing at uncatchable speed. Thus, it remains more urgent the focus we need to direct to all new difficulties and mainly discrimination, which should have no place in our work place.
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