Do women need to know when to walk away?
Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond has sparked controversy over her advice that young women should sometimes just ignore discrimination.
Just get on with the job at hand, she said. SA Senator Penny Wong disagreed with the gently gently approach, saying: “I don’t think silence in the face of unfairness leads to greater equality.” Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said if people didn’t complain change wouldn’t happen.
Listening to the talkback radio this morning showed there’s plenty of confusion about the issue. Some people thought she was telling people to stay quiet about sexual harrassment or bullying. What do you think? See what was said below.
Sophia MacRae said she feels some inequality in her workplace. She asked:
I’m fairly new on the council …and it’s only in the last three or four years, just after my child was born that I became involve d in this position and I’ve found I’m encountering older men who are more experienced than me and I’m quite happy to acknowledge that but I do feel there is some inequality there. Can I just ask, what would be your advice for a younger woman dealing with that, when it’s not just the fact that your older colleagues have more experience but you can sense that there is a little bit of discrimination involved as well?
Ms Redmond responded (edited):
Boy, good question Sophia… I was elected to council when I was 28 and my first child was coming up to 1 and I then had two more children while I was on council until my husband said you can either have a career in local government or a family.
We decided to keep the family side of things but I actually took my newborn babies to council meetings and breastfed them and changed them which I thought was going swimmingly until one night after doing that a young mother on the other side of the council chamber sent me a note and said check out the right side of your shirt and I had baby poo all down it. But I was very lucky because the council I was on didn’t bat an eyelid.
And look, you know a couple of things I’d say one is that I think you need to probably, in any new role… use your ears, eyes and mouth in that proportion.
Listen a lot and, rather than making statements, ask lots of questions, preferably intelligent questions, to try to get the discussion to go the way you want it.
I don’t think there’s any much point in confrontation. There were laws at that time (when she was a councillor and lawyer) about discrimination but I took the view that I was going to come out the loser if I tried to use those laws against the behemoth of this organisation and somone in a very senior position.
So I left and got another job.
And there is karma in the world because I one day had him on the phone not knowing who I was because I changed my name… and he was nice as pie to me till he worked out who I was.
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 make gentle suggestions, and I think you’ll find the discrimination will just disappear.
What are your strategies for dealing with discrimination? Do you think Ms Redmond has a point?
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