The post‐war period has been characterised by a persistent and substantial expansion in the employment of women. At the same time, women have become increasingly protected in employment by a legislative framework that includes the Equal Pay Act (1970), the Social Security and Pensions Act (1975) and the Sex Discrimination Act (1975). Nevertheless, a number of vestiges of discrimination under the law still remain, such as the special treatment of women with regard to the length and timing of their paid employment. Despite the attempts to remove discrimination by legislation, there remains a considerable groundswell of opinion that there are still substantial differences in the treatment of women vis‐a‐vis men in employment. One continuing concern is the tendency of the organisation of tasks to polarise into men‐only and women‐only jobs. As a result, it has been argued that the situation approximates to a dual labour market, with women being funnelled into the secondary labour market. Complex, interacting forces are at play that make the estimation of statistical models of the existing distribution of employment by sex (from which evidence of sex discrimination might be sought) extremely difficult. A potentially more rewarding approach is to examine those jobs that employers believe to be of the men‐only or women‐only types. Questions of this type were included in a recent survey of employers across all sectors of employment in British industry. While the formulation of such questions and the interpretation of the results are associated with important problems, nevertheless, the survey provides a useful impression of the size and nature of the barriers faced by women in their search for employment opportunities and the manner in which these barriers may be broken down.
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