British business faces pressure to end sexism in the workplace with growing demands for compulsory investigations into how much companies pay their women staff.
After a record number of sex discrimination and equal pay claims to employment tribunals last year, the Government faces growing demands for action on equality.
Campaigners believe current voluntary agreements with employers are too weak to change a culture in which women are paid, on average, just 82p for every pounds 1 a man gets, hundreds are sacked for getting pregnant, and thousands are bullied, harassed or barred from promotion on grounds of gender.
The Equal Opportunities Commission, which backed the three women featured on this page, believes that many cases still go unreported. It wants all employers to carry out pay reviews. At present the reviews are voluntary. Ministers are reluctant to change the law, fearing that any compulsory move requiring employers to carry out pay audits could cost business billions.
Despite improvements in the lot of women at work - and attempts by the Government to encourage employers to carry out salary reviews and to adopt flexible working programmes for parents - there were still nearly 40,000 such cases reported to the Employment Tribunal Service in 2000-1.
Cases, such as those of Annette Cashmore, who was prevented from taking a job deemed to be "man's work", Sharon Sawyer, whose pregnancy triggered a campaign of sexual harassment, or Sarah Daly, who was paid pounds 4,000 less than a man for doing a job of equal value, are all too common.
Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "Clearly the thousands of people who …