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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 16:44 GMT
Women's workplace wars
Women in mini and maxi skirts
Battles still rage over dress code
When Tammy Wynette opined that "sometimes it's hard to be a woman," she could have been referring to the British workplace.

It is 30 years since the Equal Pay Act was passed, and 25 years since the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) became law.

Yet it seems women are still fighting an uphill battle for level pegging, in areas from equal pay for equal work, to the right to wear trousers.

Even pop stars are not immune from pay discrimination. Just a few months ago, it was revealed that the male members of teen group Steps were being paid up to twice as much as the girls.
Steps: The boys were on top
The Trades Union Congress is currently running a campaign urging women to find out whether they are being paid the same as their male counterparts.

But asking a colleague the size of his paypacket flies in the face of convention for the reserved British.

It's you, baby

Having children is costing women thousands of pounds - and we're not just talking bills for baby clothes.

Research by the London School of Economics said the "mother gap", the time taken off work to have babies, costs women between 19,000 and 285,000 over a lifetime.
Kay Swinburne: Escort girls joined her office Christmas party
However, the problems do not stop there. Mothers face more subtle difficulties in keeping up with the Mr Joneses.

Josephine Warrior, who has written a book for women in science and engineering, says modern office culture makes it difficult for mothers to compete with their colleagues..

Expectations that employees will work long hours, network in bars and on squash courts, and travel to conferences miles from home, all hamper women with families.

This situation seems unlikely to change ahead of a wider cultural change which means that men take more responsibility for childcare.

'Cinderella Complex'

Women are beginning to challenge perceived sexism on an individual basis, by becoming more litigious and taking bosses to industrial tribunals.
Jane Couch: Won the right to box, despite pre-menstrual tension
City high-flyer Kay Swinburne recently persuaded a tribunal that life at Deutsche Bank had been intolerable. She claimed escort girls were hired for the office Christmas party, and women workers were referred to as "totty".

But the odd headline-grabbing tribunal aside, modern sex discrimination in the workplace is difficult to quantify.

Helena Dennison, chair of the City Women's Network, says it manifests itself in a kind of institutional sexism which assumes women are less able than men.

"It's much more subtle," she says. "It's more a general discounting of their ability, and general undermining remarks".
Carlton club interior: Ladies don't usually see this
Women are also guilty of undermining themselves, she said. They are less confident in their abilities, less likely to demand pay rises, and less certain that they deserve the highest positions.

Ms Dennison says the symptoms are rooted in childhood and the different ways boys and girls are brought up.

And at the heart of the matter, she says, is the "Cinderella complex" - where no matter how successful a woman is, "subconsciously she still expects that a prince is going to come along and rescue her".

'Nannies, grannies and...'

Ms Dennison says women also had to cope with the "old-boy network" that was alive and well in London's gentlemen's clubs and on gold courses up and down the country.

Focuses for this network include men-only clubs such as London's Garrick and the Cardiff and County Club, plus various golf and rowing clubs up and down the country.

The Conservative Carlton Club remains closed to women, despite open objections from party leader William Hague.

That led to Tory MP Teresa Gorman exclaiming: "The Conservative Establishment has always treated women as nannies, grannies and fannies."

But sexism cuts both ways.

Last year, NatWest Bank, the Mazda car company, the London School of Economics and Hampshire County Council ran The Navigator Programme.

This offered assertiveness training for male employees who felt threatened by careerist female colleagues.

Female forfeit
Is it fair that women earn less?
See also:

21 Feb 00 | Business
06 Dec 99 | Business
27 Oct 99 | Business
18 Jan 00 | UK
13 Dec 99 | UK Education
07 Dec 99 | UK Politics
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