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Gender Discrimination: speak out, suffer in silence or just move on?

Have you faced gender discrimination at work? Know someone who has? Did they speak out? And if so, how did that work for them? A storm has erupted over comments on this very issue by Isobel Redmond, Leader of the Opposition in my home State of South Australia, earlier this week.  At a women’s event in Adelaide, Ms Redmond fielded a question from the audience asking her advice on the issue.  Her response – to the effect that a lawsuit might not be the best response – has been construed by certain commentators as Ms Redmond condoning gender discrimination, which I’m certain is not how it was intended.

News Limited reported Ms Redmond’s comments at the event: “I think it is easier a lot of the time to just try to ignore the discrimination and get on with being the best councillor you can be, or the best whatever it is, and ask intelligent questions and … I think you’ll find the discrimination will just disappear,” and suggested that she went even further, suggesting that women who used legal channels to fight discrimination tended to make people hate them.

Hate them?  Strong words? I tend to agree.  Look at the outrage heaped against Kirsty Fraser-Kirk when she commenced proceedings against Mark McInness, the former CEO of David Jones.  The ire heaped against her when she filed allegations her former boss tried to kiss her and put his hand under her clothes was hard to believe.  The case eventually settled out of court and McInnes has gone onto another multi-million dollar CEO role.  Fraser-Kirk? At 26 years of age she was virtually unemployable and has attempted to kickstart her career… In Singapore.

What about Christina Rich, the former PwC partner who took on the boys club in her own firm, in a precedent-setting sexual discrimination case?  Her business name was so tarnished that she no longer goes by the same surname, and has also had to completely reinvent her career.  All the while, who even remembers the men she blew the whistle on?

Jessica Rowe has spoken out against Ms Redmond on The Hoopla today, issueing a call to action that “we need some lionesses to rage about inequality in the workplace.”  Rowe then goes on to give three specific instances of gender discrimination or harassment perpetrated against her, and in all three cases she decided not to rage about the inequality.

Let me clearly state my position: gender discrimination or harassment of any sort must not be condoned, ignored or perpetrated.  We all have a responsibility to speak out, demand equality and be the change we want to see in the world.

And if we’re all serious about making this a reality, we have to stop – as a society – pointing the finger of blame at the plaintiff when she speaks out.

Likewise, we need to ensure there are easy, expedient and affordable means to blow the whistle.  Friends of mine have been caught up in cases that have lasted months and months before resolution was reached.  It cost them thousands and thousands of dollars in legal fees, lost income and – I think – reputational impact.  Some of them have never returned to the workforce.

Maybe what Isobel Redmond was trying to say is that “there are many ways to skin a cat”: being really good at what you do is one of them; blowing the whistle internally is another; going all the way to a lawsuit is another.  Let’s be realistic: they all come with different costs and benefits.

Your thoughts?


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2 months ago

Jen Dalitz

What are the lessons you’re teaching your kids? We took the opportunity of a holiday long weekend to visit my mum interstate as the timing of the trip coincided with my son’s favourite AFL team battling it out against my mum’s beloved team. Perhaps only those of you with the love for AFL will appreciate why we’d plan a long distance trip around a game of footy, but suffice to say it was a passion project! With every ounce of anticipation, the game was a tough, tight duel and could easily have gone either way. Yet when the final siren sounded, it wasn’t our team that was smiling. It sure is tough for a 10 year old boy to sit within a crowd 41,000+ people all cheering for the opposite side. It was tough for him to see the exhaustion and disappointment on the faces of the players he adores. And yet, it’s so important for him to learn that his team won’t always win. There’s so many lessons in that, but the one I chose to instil is that you won’t always back the team that wins but you’ll always back the team that you love. That’s why I asked him to wear his team colours home the next day, and show his support even when the chips are down. That’s the kind of commitment I want my son to learn and the kind of team player I want him to be. PS. #gotheGiants @GWSGiants #neversurrender ... See MoreSee Less

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4 months ago

Jen Dalitz

I haven’t been here in a while as the writing has been on hold. But I was reminded today that there are things in our life that light us up. That might take us out of our comfort zone but, once you sit with it, bring you both joy and a sense of “I can do this” achievement. These moments are such a gift. So I’m curious, what’s your special thing that lights you up?

Despite (or in spit of) my professional career, these moments for me normally involve my horses. I’ll never be an equestrian Olympian, but I take great pleasure in all the lessons my horses teach me. They remind me that it’s a team effort, we’re in it together, and that if I’m prepared to give a little bit more, they will too. That’s true whether we’re on the ground taking care of their feet, or grooming, or when I’m atop riding as one. Two hearts one team.
It’s hard to describe the adrenaline and joy they bring to my life. But I’d love to know, what lights you up??
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And so, maybe time does change some things. Or women do.

Skavlan Talkshow
– They let me go at 42 because they told me I was too old to represent women's dreams. #kvinnedagen

Watch our talk show interview with Isabella Rossellini here:
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