Australia’s outgoing sex discrimination commissioner, Liz Broderick, is currently on a farewell tour after eight years in the job. During her tenure there have been forward and backward steps in women’s push for equality in the workplace. More women on company boards and increased flexible work practices have helped to advance female workplace participation, but these steps are belied by the most recent news about the widening gender pay gap.
Broderick’s replacement has some mountains to climb. They will start with the daunting task of convincing businesses that if they want to hang on to their female employees, an attitude change is not enough – policies need to change, and fast.
Working against that imperative is the government’s proposals to cut parental leave. If approved by the Senate, nurses and ambulance workers, teachers and retail workers will be hit the hardest, according to figures released by Fair Agenda and YWCA Australia. Women in these jobs can expect to lose between $4,329 and $11,826.
The Sex Discrimination Commissioner will also need to tackle the shocking statistic that one in four women report they have been sexually harassed in their workplace in the past five years.
Little wonder then that a whopping 96 per cent of female leaders between the age of 18 and 34 believe that gender is a barrier to them remaining employed, according to the newly released Westpac Women of Influence Report.
The barrier to progression and participation in the workforce is made worse by age discrimination, says the report, with 41 per cent of young women leaders surveyed saying they were paid less than men, 32 per cent claiming they weren’t offered the same training or development opportunities, and nearly 30 per cent reporting they missed out on a pay rise.