Young women urged to reach new heights

Girls and young women are more likely to set their sights on perceived gender specific careers and avoid the field of politics, according to a recent survey.

Plan International Australia commissioned research found out of 1000 females aged between 14 and 25, fewer than one per cent wanted a job in politics, 49 per cent said sexism affected their choice of career path and more than 75 per cent had fallen victim to sexist comments in their lifetime.

Almost half of the participants also believed sexist attitudes in Australia were increasing.

Latrobe Women in Business secretary Michelle Anderson said she was not shocked by the findings.

Ms Anderson believed if it were not for legislation and the discrimination act, attitudes towards women in workplaces would not have improved.

“Prior to where I’m working at the moment I was the regional manager for (Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry) so I used to visit a lot of small businesses around Gippsland,” Ms Anderson said.

“It does not surprise me at all (about the findings on sexist comments) because of things like even walking into a tearoom and workers not having an understanding of the (explicit) posters that were on the wall.

“They really didn’t have any understanding that was not okay.”

Ms Anderson believed it was up to parents and peers to encourage young women to aspire to higher levelled careers.

She said it was likely women had little interest in politics because of how they saw them treated, using former Prime Minister Julia Gillard as an example.

“Maybe they just see (politics) as something that because it’s so male dominated that it would be a very difficult job; you would need to be a very strong-minded person to be able to work in that role I think,” Ms Anderson said.

“Even Julia Gillard copped quite a bit of stereotyping even in her position. You would have to be a very strong-willed and an assertive person to be in that environment.”

Gippsland Women’s Health Network executive officer Jodie Martin said she was not surprised to learn of the percentage of women who had experienced sexist comments.

“One of our staff went out into the street one day with a recording device and asked random women on the street their experiences of sexism,” Ms Martin said.

“The stuff around career paths surprised me a little bit so I find that really disappointing and it’s a real concern,” she said.

“It just shows we need to be teaching our boys and girls that we can do anything we want without any stigma attached.”