Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, sex discrimination expert Dr Karen O’Connell said that conversations about the experience of women in the workplace often omitted the little and sometimes quiet acts of denigration which served to undermine their professional status.
Dr O’Connell suggested these discriminatory acts could be anything from silent, negative attitudes about motherhood to expectations about how women should dress at work.
“‘Second-generation discrimination’ is the idea that there are certain kinds of discrimination that are just a bit less visible than the most obvious ones. They are the sort of systematic, pervasive, cumulative acts, which can be really difficult to isolate out as an individual act of one individual on another,” she explained.
While buoyed by the momentum that the #MeToo movement has taken on in Australia, Dr O’Connell said that she was concerned a focus on specific, sexualised incidents of workplace harassment would leave big gaps in the conversation about broader problems working women faced.