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Thursday March 21, 2024

How to keep momentum after International Women’s Day

  • How to keep momentum after International Women’s Day image

On a recent Work with Purpose episode on International Women’s Day, Padma Raman PSM from the Office for Women and Cherelle Murphy from EY share how to keep walking the walk, instead of just talking the talk when comes to gender equality in Australia.

Australia’s 2024 Status of Women report card is showing some promising progress towards gender equality, from a slightly smaller gender pay gap to growing workforce participation.

However, inequality persists in many areas. Women still do over 9 hours more of unpaid work per week, and 43.3 per cent of women work part-time, compared to 19.5 per cent of men making them less financially secure. Sexual harassment also remains a concerning issue, with 26 per cent reporting having recently experienced it at work.

To address this, Padma Raman PSM, executive director, Office for Women, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Cherelle Murphy, EY Oceania chief economist say that attitudes around care work and data sharing need to shift and that it’s worthwhile staying vigilant despite progress.

Value care

Women’s economic security is severely impacted by the lack of value that is placed on paid and unpaid care, says Padma.

“Women do the lion’s share of caring, both paid and unpaid. It’s assumed that women would undertake those caring responsibilities because we are women, and they’re deeply held stereotypes that are really rigid in a country like Australia.

“If we think about paid parental leave and encouraging men to take a bigger role in caring, there are levers that governments and businesses can pull together.”

Share data

Another area for government and businesses to work together is data sharing.

Cherelle highlights that there are great benefits in improving data flows, including being able to understand where women stand and address what they need.

“If we can have access to government data on the behaviour of women through the tax system, through the social security system, through the health system and equally, if the private sector can share their information back to government, we’re going to be getting a better picture of women’s behaviours.”

“We don’t really fully know why, particularly women in the older age groups, are kind of only on the periphery of the labour market. They’ll come in and out quite easily. They may be incentivised to leave a job for reasons we don’t really understand.

“So, data is very, very important. And the more we share it, the more we make it accessible and usable, the better the answers we get to some of those problems.”

Know your ‘positive duties’

With recent legislation framing respect at work, employers now need to put measures into place to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination. Padma says this new legislation has real potential to drive change.

“The positive duty is a duty on employers to provide a workplace free of sexual harassment and sex discrimination. People understand the bit around sexual harassment, but where this will go in terms of reducing discrimination in workplaces is something we don’t know yet.

“It has the ability to transform workplaces to be ones where women feel safe. We know that women leave workforces because of harassment and bullying. There is an element of not feeling safe in workplaces.”

Have powerful role models

Cherelle encourages women to look towards powerful role models and take control of one’s financial future.

“Think about how good it would be if we had a role model as powerful as Taylor Swift for financial literacy. My Instagram feed is full of sequins and sparkles and music and all the things that are wonderful in life, but I would like to see the same enthusiasm applied to managing one’s own money and one’s own financial future.”

“And the more we see of that kind of content, the more role models we see, such as Danielle Wood at the Productivity Commission, Michele Bullock, head of the Reserve Bank, Jenny Wilkinson, head of the Department of Finance, and the list goes on, the better because we are really setting ourselves up to say, “Hey, girls just want to have fun in this space too.””

Remain vigilant

Despite some of these positive trends, and even though some people believe we have reached gender equality in Australia, Padma says it’s important stay vigilant, and be aware of the intersectional challenges marginalised women continue face.

“There are surveys in Australia that say that people think we’ve reached gender equality, both men and women when we clearly haven’t on any set of indicators. There is a bit of a backlash around gender equality. And for that very reason, we need to keep telling the story.

“This year alone, we’ve already seen 11 women lose their lives to their current or former partners. These are things that we need to keep talking about to get… to make sure that, as a community, we understand that there’s still a long way to go for us to achieve equality between men and women.

“If you get it right for the most marginalised, you get it right for everyone. Keeping in centre those women who are particularly marginalised, whether it’s because of where they live, because of their ethnicity, because of their First Nation status, or because of their financial circumstances … is really important.”

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