A mother who lost shifts because she couldn't find childcare at short notice. An Indigenous woman who was too scared to take her baby to hospital because she feared her child would be removed from her custody. A woman who was asked to wear a bikini to work to get her bonus.
These are some of the stories Australia's sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, heard when she travelled the country for six months consulting with women from urban, rural, regional, remote and Indigenous communities, as well as those with disabilities, and victims of sexual assault or harassment in the workplace.
Gender equality has not been achieved in Australia, where there are "low levels of economic participation and political empowerment" for women, a report released by Jenkins for International Women's Day has found.
"I have heard about the ingenious ways individuals are working to overcome structural biases and unhelpful stereotypes in order to improve opportunities for women," Jenkins wrote in the report.
"We are at a critical time for gender equality in Australia."
A woman was not allowed on a building site because "there was no suitable toilet". A woman was being sexually harassed by her employer but felt unable to report it in case there was a backlash from her small, rural community.
After half a year of consultation and a review of existing research, Jenkins identified three key areas where the most progress was needed: preventing and addressing violence against women, working to erase female economic disadvantage and "poverty in retirement", and promoting women's leadership.
But tackling these issues won't be easy as there was "strong opposition to initiatives aiming to advance gender equality" in Australia, the report found.
In fact, 62% of men agreed with the statement: "Women have equal opportunities to men in the country where I live".
A female plumber who started her own business after failing to receive a single callback for job applications, despite being overqualified. A female employee who was labelled "hysterical" for calling out sexism. A woman with children who had few options for transport and support services, which limited her ability to escape domestic violence.
Jenkins met with one woman, Lyn, who worked as a cleaner in a hospital and experienced sexual harassment from doctors and patients, one of whom called her into his room, where he was sitting naked with an erection.
“Lyn tried to report an unrelated instance of sexual harassment by a colleague’s husband but her manager did not take her seriously. After eight years of employment, Lyn thinks that she will have to resign from her job," the report said.
Jenkins said throughout these consultations she was "constantly reminded" of the under-reporting of family violence, sexual assault, sex discrimination and sexual harassment "due to backlash and victimisation".
"I’m just lucky to have a job, I know it [the discrimination] is wrong but I need the job," a migrant woman who was experiencing sex discrimination said.
A woman who felt it was "too threatening" to ask about her pay and conditions. A trans man who was given a "female" wristband in medical centres despite living in his affirmed gender for over 10 years.
Economic gender gaps were worse for women "experiencing intersectional discrimination and disadvantage".
"Women with diverse sexual orientations, trans and gender diverse women and intersex women, culturally and linguistically diverse women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women noted many intersecting and complex problems that are exacerbating gender inequality," the report said.
"The conversations highlighted that their experiences cannot be understood in terms of being a woman without also understanding their experience of race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, intersex status and culture."
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at email@example.com.
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