Feminist Activism - Education & Job Opportunities

Equality Legislation

The equality legislation of the 1970s made a big impact on the way women took part in the UK labour market. The two most important Acts of Parliament were the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA) and the Equal Pay Act. The cartoon on the right is an ironic comment on the need for legislation. Section 47 of the SDA introduced a policy of Positive Action, which lies at the heart of the Sex Discrimination Act. It aimed to open up areas of employment and training which had previously been occupied mainly by one sex. Positive Action immediately became controversial, and has been widely misunderstood. It did not mean that one sex would automatically be favoured over the other. This would be positive discrimination, which was and remains illegal.


Instead, it became lawful to encourage women to apply for training, to reserve places for them on existing courses and to offer single-sex training courses, providing certain conditions were met. By making possible innovations such as free child-care and women-only training for jobs traditionally taken by men, it helped women find work or improve their skills and qualifications, particularly in job areas where they were under-represented or had effectively been excluded.


The provision of women-only courses during the 1970s and 1980s recognised that for certain groups of women, particularly those wishing to return to employment after caring duties, or to non-traditional work, lack of confidence could be a real barrier.


Now look at the worksheet on Positive Action to explore some of the issues.


More about post-1945 campaigns for equal pay can be found on the Women's Rights - The Equal Pay Debate Learning Journey 















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