Tracey Spicer: "I've been told to stick my tits out more, lose some weight"

"One in two women in the workforce

still experiences pregnancy or maternity discrimination."

When she was fired from her job soon after having her second child, journalist Tracey Spicer took legal action against Ten for discrimination. We talked to Spicer about sexism in Australia’s media scene and why she tired of being the “good girl” at work – a theme that forms the backbone of her new book. By Grace Jennings-Edquist

On some of the sexist comments she’s heard from employers over the years.

Oh dear – how long have you got…? I’ve been told to stick my tits out more, lose some weight, and go behind the scenes because I’m “too long in the tooth”. Once, a manager said I didn’t need a payrise because, “Well, you’ll do this job for a couple of years then marry a nice businessman. You’ll never need to work another day in your life again!” The reason I’ve written this book with a humorous tone is because the treatment of women in the workforce borders on the absurd.

On how much has changed in the prevalence of sex discrimination in the workforce since she took legal action against Ten.

Not much has changed, according to the data. One in two women in the workforce still experiences pregnancy or maternity discrimination. However, there are greater legislative protections nowadays. This means that if women have enough legal, financial and emotional support, they’re able to take action. But we also need something akin to ‘whistleblower protection’, so a woman doesn’t end up with a black mark against her name.

On why only about one-fifth of women who experience discrimination at work actually take action.

Often, women don’t know where to begin. It comes as quite a shock, so we’re unprepared. There’s excellent information and support at the Australian Human Rights Commission but further legal action is expensive, time-consuming and emotionally draining. Many women choose to put the health of their baby first, and quit work altogether to avoid the associated stress.

On the top three issues she hopes this next generation of feminists can tackle.

I couldn’t really name a top three, because all of our issues – in Australia and globally – are interconnected. For example, in India it would be the rising rate of female foeticide. Here, one woman a week dies as a result of domestic violence. We worry about the gender pay gap in corporate Australia – and rightly so – but in many countries, women aren’t allowed into paid work. Their ‘caring roles’ in the community amount to domestic servitude. So, the fourth wave is all about intersectional feminism. Women of different races, cultures, sexuality and ability have a whole host of challenges, compared with the privileged middle-class white woman answering these questions.

Buy Tracey’s book The Good Girl Stripped Bare (Harper Collins, May 2017) here. You can also watch Tracey’s badass TED talk, in which she literally takes a baby wipe to her face full of makeup, here