Britain still has to get to grips with the challenge of achieving equality between women and men said Julie Mellor, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), on the day the EOC publishes its annual report.
Ms Mellor said:
“The range of cases the EOC took last year shows just how deeply sex discrimination is still rooted in British society. It affects people of all ages and from many different backgrounds: the father whose employer wouldn’t let him work part-time so he could look after his daughter; the football agent excluded from her profession’s annual awards dinner because she was a woman; the council worker barred from applying for a promotion because she was job-sharing; the woman applying for a cashier’s job who wasn’t even considered because she was pregnant; the school girl banned from wearing trousers.
“Britain is stuck in a rut. It’s incredible that after 25 years of sex discrimination legislation so many people’s lives are still shaped by outdated assumptions about the roles they should play in society, just because of their sex. Everyone, from politicians and bosses, to individual workers, teachers and parents, needs to recognise that society has changed enormously. At the heart of many of those changes is one simple reality: both women and men with families now want to work and to care for their children.
“Thousands of people are still contacting us for advice each year. It is clear that we all have to be prepared to consider new approaches to achieving equality as the old approach has left us with a lot of unfinished business.
“The EOC is committed to continuing its work with policymakers and employers to create a framework for an equitable society in which everyone is able to make real choices about how they lead their lives.“
Secretary of State for Education and Employment, David Blunkett, said:
“I very much welcome the EOC’s Annual Report for 1999-2000. Under the direction of Julie Mellor, the EOC has continued to drive forward its commitment to deliver change in the arena of gender equality as well as the continual transformation of the EOC into a modern cutting edge equality body in the 21st century.“
Between 1 January 1999 and 31 March 2000 EOC advice staff received 9,109 enquiries on issues relating to either the Sex Discrimination Act or the Equal Pay Act.