Forget Football, Sexism Is Still Everywhere; the Scandal over Sexism in Football Claimed Two High-Profile Scalps Last Week - the Debate Divided the Country. but as the Furore Subsides, We Investigate the Reality of Sexism at Work

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Byline: Katy Weitz

A bit of lads' banter - that is how some described the sexist comments made last week by football pundits Andy Gray and Richard Keys about a female assistant referee.

Just a bit of fun. But what may be banter to one person can be horrific bullying to another.

It was just this kind of 'lads banter' which saw PC Barbara Lynford sue Sussex Police for sexual discrimination after she was forced out of her job, suffered stress, became mentally ill and unable to work. The tribunal awarded nearly pounds 575,000 to PC Lynford, the highest such award to a public sector worker. Sexual comments, lower pay and discrimination are still rife in the workplace.

During PC Lynford's tribunal, she described her ordeal. "In all my life I have never been treated as badly as I have been at Gatwick," she said.

"I survived backpacking around India at the age of 19 for a few months where I was even kidnapped and held against my will for a few days in Bombay.

Nothing prepared me for the people at Gatwick."

Women in the UK typically earn less, own less and are more likely to live in poverty than men. They are under-represented in Parliament, in boardrooms across the country and in public life.

Unless they are young and pretty they don't appear on our TV screens - as the recent tribunal of Countryfile presenter Miriam O'Reilly noted, older women face a 'particular disadvantage within the broadcast media'.

And women continue to be assaulted, raped and murdered, all because of their gender. According to official figures, three

million women across the UK suffer violence simply because they are women.

So, who or what is to blame? Leading feminist Natasha Walter, lays the blame at the door of our 'hyper-sexualised' society.

"Sexism has never gone away," says Natasha, author of Living Dolls - The Return of Sexism.

"And there are lots of things that are increasing sexism such as the rise of pornography on the internet and in the mainstream.

"It encourages people to see women simply as sexual objects. Even though all these doors are opening to women, there still is a sense all around us that women you see in pubof lic are there because of how sexy they look. It's a real problem and we're not going to get rid of it unless we battle with these sexual attitudes."

It appears that sexism is still rampant in workplaces across the UK - a recent survey revealed that 72% of women workers experience sexist bullying at work but most incidents go unreported.

Discrimination expert Camilla Palmer, partner at Leigh Day & Co solicitors, says: "Often, women put up with comments because they know that if they complain they may lose their job or the atmosphere becomes very frosty and they are forced out.

"Employers simply aren't willing to grasp the nettle and discipline or dismiss men who harass women."

A key area of sexism in the workplace is maternity rights.

Property agent Lisa, 28, is currently suing her former employers for sex discrimination after being forced out of her job moments after revealing she was pregnant.

"I was scared as hell of telling them," she says. "Because the attitude of my male employers was that women with children were an inconvenience.

"Sure enough, moments after I broke the news, they gave me the boot. It was completely unprofessional and unacceptable."

Sexism in this country translates across all professions - from bankers to high street hairdressers.

And it is all underpinned by unfair wages which means that equal pay is still a long way off.

Only last year British film Made in Dagenham paid tribute to the female Ford workers in Essex who went on strike in 1968 for fair pay, eventually leading to the Equal Pay Act two years later.

Yet 40 years on, women still earn 15.5% less than men. …