UNISON Wales: ‘Public service workplaces are sexist’


Female employees in Welsh councils, NHS and other public services, experience sexism at work as an everyday occurrence. That’s the stark message from UNISON Cymru Wales which asked members, 100 years after women won the vote, if equality in the workplace has been achieved. According to 70 per cent of respondents, the answer was ‘no’.

Reporting its survey results on International Women’s Day (Thursday), UNISON said a majority of respondents had to make changes at work as the result of being a woman because of their domestic situation. The trade union polled 150 members and found:

  • 70 per cent of respondents said women have NOT achieved equality in the workplace
  • Over 60 per cent of respondents have witnessed or experienced sexism in the workplace
  • 20 per cent of respondents felt unable or didn’t know how to challenge sexist behaviour
  • Nearly 60 per cent of respondents have made changes at work as the result of being a woman because of their domestic situation

 Jenny Griffin, UNISON Cymru Wales Women’s officer, said,

“Healthcare workers, teaching assistants, cooks, carers, cleaners and many more, have told us everyday sexism is so rife, it is taken for granted. Women are belittled at work, called pet names, overlooked for promotion, sexually harassed and frequently told to defer to husbands or male colleagues who ‘know better’.

“Inequality means feeling you must work harder than men to prove yourself their equal or being expected to make the tea in meetings even though it’s not part of your job description. Women are diminished in the eyes of some managers as they have had career breaks or needed to work part time or flexibly because of caring responsibilities. Whilst women may have brought up the kids or cared for relatives and done their best at work, their talents and skills are frequently ignored. If women are taking on the lion’s share of care at home and our careers are seen as less important, how are we ever going to achieve equality?”

“Equality at work is a distant dream. There’s so much pressure on women to look good, be the perfect wife, the perfect mother and bring home a salary. Men are not judged in the same way and the expectations and aspirations we ask of them are much lower. The message from public service employees is they are frequently penalised at work for being women.

“Every gain we have made in the eyes of the law: the Abortion Act; Equal Pay Act; Sex Discrimination and Equality Acts and Minimum Wage legislation, women in trade unions have fought for. When we stand together, we win change that benefits the whole of society.”

UNISON will present the survey results to public service employers across Wales and the union intends to use its reach with its 100,000 members here to campaign for equality at work to mean fairness for everyone and for workplace standards to be applied consistently.


Notes for editors

Equality survey results summary and individual testimonies


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Press Officer on 07816 538397