The jokes you can’t make at work
MORE than 100 of Australia's biggest employers have come together to tackle everyday sexism by pointing out that not all jokes are innocent.
Phrases such as "Make sure you wear your low-cut top to meet with that client!" or "You've got to let her know who wears the pants around here!" are just some of the examples of sexism in the workplace masquerading as humour, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission's (AHRC) new report.
However, Graham Ashton, chief commissioner of Victoria Police, said sexism is a sensitive and highly-nuanced topic.
"Most people don't want to be accused, let alone be guilty, of sexist behaviour while some often dismiss the subject as political correctness gone mad," he said. "Yet we see it play out every single day in the media, in politics, in our workplaces and in the community."
Six thousand employees across different workplaces took part in the report and identified a range of "jokes" that were actually upsetting.
Other examples included: "You won't want to work on that machine ... you might break a fingernail!," one worker was told. Another worker posted: "You are such a media whore! #joke #funny"
Female workers said they have experienced men interrupting or talking over them and men explaining things to them as if they had no prior skills or knowledge when they actually do.
One employee said: "The supplier said 'Can I speak to the manager, love?' referring to the man behind me. I was in fact the manager."
"If I really want to get an idea up, I ask my male colleague to propose it in the meeting - I don't like it but it's a means to an end." another said.
"As the only female at the lunch meeting, I watched the men wait for me to take the plastic wrap off the sandwiches. And take the minutes," one worker said.
Another was told: "We'll get you to smile sweetly as guests arrive and hand out the name tags."
Female workers said they have experienced comments about body shape, size, physical characteristics or dress over skill and competence.
"I couldn't take her seriously in that presentation - did you see what she was wearing?" one employee overheard.
Another reported hearing: "She's mutton dressed up as lamb."
Both women and men said in the report that they have encountered gendered assumptions about parenting roles.
"When I fell pregnant with my second child I was told that was the end of my career," one parent reported.
While a male worker said: "When I said I wanted to leave to pick up my kids I was asked why my wife couldn't do it."
Women also said they were often described as being too bossy or, on the flip side, not assertive enough, too emotional or nice. "I was told I needed to be less aggressive ... to be more feminine," one female worker said.
Men reported being told they are too soft and not competitive enough.
Mr Ashton said everyday sexism impacts women and men. He said: "Whether intentional or not, it can take a significant and cumulative toll on the personal lives and career progression of employees and also the effectiveness of organisations."
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins said while some industry sectors have responded decisively to more explicit forms of sexual harassment, everyday sexism is still evident in workplace interactions, systems, policies and decisions that affect both individual careers and organisational cultures.
"Typically people don't raise it because it can be seen as too small to make a fuss about and few want to be seen to be 'rocking the boat'," she said.
"But consistently in my work, we hear that these things do matter. They are outdated at best, harmful at worst.
"Unless we tackle everyday sexism, the most innovative policies and initiatives designed to advance gender equality and inclusive and effective organisations will not deliver the change we need."