The Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (CLW) commends Minister Kate Ellis on recognising that “insidious structural and cultural barriers” to women’s equal participation in the workplace are a reality for the reasons she outlines:
- “whilst we have made extraordinary progress in women’s access to education and ensuring we have a qualified and skilled female workforce – blockages remain to women rising through middle management to the senior ranks of Australian workplaces.”
- it is “often attributed to time out of the workforce as a result of child bearing and rearing but the fact is that many women without children have experienced the same blockages.”
- “that many women who do leave the workforce to have children do not feel supported when they seek to return and are not given the flexibility they need to balance family and work.”
- that the problem is broader than just “the number of women directors on boards and in the senior ranks of big business”
- “We must address the promotion of women through the pipeline and appropriately foster their career advancement.”
The Minister’s decision to obtain data to strategize “real and meaningful ways to give more than just gentle encouragement to businesses that don’t make the grade” is welcomed by CLW.
Ensuring that the Workplace Gender Equality Agency will have a clearer and broader focus supported by the corresponding legislation of the Workplace Gender Equality Act to legislatively address gender equity in this unprecedented way is what is required to drive and sustain gender equality in Australian workplaces.
That “businesses will be required to report on the indicators that matter – on the actual figures of gender composition of their organisations and their boards, on their employment conditions and whether they have flexible work practices for men and women” will ensure that organisations are accountable to create the structural pathways necessary to develop, recognise and promote women through the pipeline at all levels of the organisation.
CLW supports the Minister in focusing on recognising that it is time to move beyond just fostering “good intentions” in businesses to requiring evidence of “tangible” “good outcomes” against “objects of the Act.” CLW recognises that this will lead to an evidence based analysis of “where gender pay gaps are emerging or growing,” and the development of “industry and sector-based benchmarks.”
The reforms initiated by Minister Ellis are noted by CLW as being premised on the view that gender equality is not just about women, but also about men. CLW welcomes the change in focus from Equal Opportunity for Women to Gender Equality as being a good foundation that is supported by research findings. CLW commends the Minister on taking on the challenge to institute key changes in the government’s framework which will enable women’s advancement in the Australian workplace to move at a faster pace than the glacial pace it has been at for decades.
Press Release March 2011