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Working paper

Simply washed out by a woman: social control, status and discrimination in a statutory authority

URP Working Paper No. 4
Discrimination Sex discrimination Gender identity in the workplace Gender Industrial relations Hunter River Valley
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apo-nid133331.pdf 10.12 MB

This paper is part of a continuing program of work by the authors on the administrative history and practices of the Hunter District Water Board which is one of the principal statutory authorities in New South Wales. The program has been generously assisted by the Board. The centre piece of this series is a comprehensive administrative history of the Board since its establishment in 1892, scheduled for publication in 1989. An associated series of papers will cover a range of issues related to this core study. This paper deals with questions of discrimination in the organisation and administration of the Board. Companion papers will cover the statutory basis of the Board, its internal work practices and rituals, the Board's relationship with trade unions, its pricing policies, and its attitudes to major industrial customers such as BHP. 'Simply Washed Out by a Woman' analyses questions of social control, status and discrimination in the day-to-day administration of the Board. It concludes that the most common forms of discrimination have been directed to religion, politics and gender. After briefly considering the limited evidence of religious and political discrimination, the bulk of the paper examines historical evidence of gender discrimination. It looks at occupational discrimination directed against women; discrimination in comparative career structures between men and women; discriminatory practices levelled at married women; discrimination in the incidence of career-related benefits such as superannuation; dress constraints imposed on both women and men; the used of nomenclature which applies a discrimination against women and men; idiosyncratic working practices designed to imply an inferior status for women employees; gender discrimination based on pay differentials; and discriminatory allocation of high-status jobs between men and women. The paper concludes that the Board's attitude to its female employees has been generally conservative until recent years. A supplementary conclusion is that the Board's Salaried Officers' Association, which covers all salaried workers for the Board, in earlier years favoured the interests of its male members to the detriment of women. In total, the paper suggests that the Board's administrative practice has shown discrimination against women until relatively recent years when genuine efforts have been made to redress a traditional imbalance and eliminate discriminatory practice.

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