The independent review into workplace equality in Ambulance Victoria: The everyday sexism experiences of female paramedics in Australia - submission to VEOHRC

Research output: Book/ReportSubmissions to inquiries and consultations

Abstract

Background: Everyday sexism forms part of a continuum of inequality where discrimination and social exclusion create an environment that limits women’s opportunities and freedoms both in their personal lives and within professional workplaces. This study explored everyday sexism (ES) experienced by female paramedics in Australia. It investigated what these experiences entailed for women in the profession of paramedicine and how the practice of everyday sexism is produced and reinforced within a professional culture.
Study Aims:
1. To understand female paramedics’ experiences of everyday sexism in the workplace
2. To contribute to the body of knowledge regarding the gendered nature of paramedic culture and its impact on female paramedics.
3. To contribute to paramedic employer understanding of the impact of the experience of everyday sexism on job performance and the career trajectory of female paramedics.
Methods: This qualitative study was informed by phenomenological and interpretivist methodology. Purposive sampling enabled eight female paramedics to be recruited from ambulance services around Australia. Semi-structured, one-on-one interviews were undertaken via an online platform. Braun and Clarke's six-stage, structured framework of thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Data was also examined through the methodological lens of Joan Acker's gendered organisational theory and how this may apply to paramedic workplace culture and the profession more broadly.
Findings: This study found that all participants had both experienced and witnessed everyday sexism, sexual harassment, or gender discrimination as part of their working environment. Findings indicate that these behaviours are established as normal, acceptable behaviours early in a paramedics’ career through gender norming and gender policing practices and continue throughout their working life. Participants described a range of consequences associated with the experience of everyday sexism including increased barriers to career progression and promotion and the potential for everyday sexism to escalate into sexual harassment. Significantly, many women described adapting their clinical practice to reduce the length or likelihood of an interaction with a known perpetrator of everyday sexism or workplace sexual harassment. Some women felt it compromised their ability to deliver optimal patient care.
Conclusion: This research has provided further evidence to support the claims that female paramedics experience everyday sexism and gender discrimination in the workplace. Gender norming and gender policing practices had a significant effect on clinical practice and negatively impacted women’s career progression and opportunities.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherVictorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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