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‘9 To 5’ Workplace Comedy Film Turns 40 But Sadly Still Relevant Today

‘9 to 5’ workplace comedy film turns 40 but sadly still relevant today

‘9 to 5’, the smash hit comedy film that premiered 40-years ago this week, is sadly still relevant today, expert say.

The film tells the story of three women forced to put up with a sexist, egotistical, misogynistic and chauvinistic boss.

It also highlights blatant sex discrimination and appalling sexual harassment faced by women in the workplace in the 1970s and 80s.

Four decades on, many of those same themes still resonate with working women in 2020, according to employment law experts.

‘9 to 5’ highlights blatant sex discrimination and appalling sexual harassment faced by women in the workplace.

‘9 to 5’ sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a major issue tackled in the film.

Consolidated Companies boss Franklin Hart (played by Dabney Coleman) relentlessly harasses his personal assistant, Doralee Rhodes (played by Dolly Parton).

Hart makes endless inappropriate comments and lewd gestures, and even spreads false rumours of an affair between the two, resulting in other staff ostracising Rhodes.

Becoming aggressive to stop the the harassment, Rhodes delivers one of the most memorable lines to her sleazy boss:

“If you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I’m going get that gun of mine, and I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot!”

‘9 to 5’ discrimination

In the film, Violet Newstead (played by Lily Tomlin) impresses as a highly capable and experienced employee at Consolidated Companies.

Despite her excellent qualifications, she is overlooked when a male colleague is promoted because of her boss’s sexist attitude.

To make the sex discrimination even worse, she trained the less-experienced male co-worker years earlier.

Completing the trio is Judy Bernly (played by Jane Fonda).

Bernly is new to Consolidated Companies – forced to find work after her husband left her for his younger secretary.

Jane Fonda plays Judy Bernly, Dolly Parton plays Doralee Rhodes and Lily Tomlin plays Violet Newstead in the smash hit workplace comedy, ‘9 to 5’.

Serious workplace issues

The movie is full of laughs, including a scene where the three women smoke a joint and dream about exacting their revenge on Hart.

However, it also highlights the serious issues faced by women in the workforce at the time.

The trio battle for equal pay, more flexible working hours and a day care centre for young mothers.

How far have we come?

So after four decades since the release of ‘9 to 5’, how far have we come in Australia?

The Hawke government introduced the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984, thanks to the relentless work of our first female Minister, Susan Ryan.

It outlawed sexual harassment and discrimination based on sex, making Australia the first jurisdiction in the world to do so.

As the years have gone on, other protections have been added.

For example, discrimination laws now protect pregnant women and people with family responsibilities.

The government now offers 18-weeks Parental Leave Pay and some companies even provide childcare services for staff.

Despite these advancements, a significant gender pay gap still exists in Australia.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, as of May 2020, the gender pay gap is 14 percent.

Women’s average earnings across all industries is $1,558 a week, compared to men who earn $1,812 a week.

And unfortunately, discrimination and sexual harassment are still prevalent in Australian workplaces. 

Victoria Police, the New South Wales Police Force, the legal profession and our federal politicians have all recently come under the spotlight for fostering appalling cultures described as “boys clubs”.

A 2018 report by the Human Rights Commission found 72 percent of Australians have experienced workplace sexual harassment since the age of 15.

In the previous 12-months, 23 percent of women and 16 percent of men reported harassment at work.

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