What kind of workplaces do we want?

In 2018 women make up 47% of Australia’s workforce, and more than 70% of education employees, but there are still many challenges confronting women in the workplace.

Catholic dioceses, other systemic employers, and independent schools with more than 100 staff, recently prepared their annual reports to the national Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). It is worth contemplating some of these current workplace equity concerns.

The current reality includes:

average full time earnings are 15.3% lower for women than for men, with pay inequity being a major issue in the early childhood education sector

this gender pay gap also results in a 42% superannuation gap for women on retirement

women still undertake the majority of care for babies, children, elderly parents or family members with an illness or disability, and

Australia still has unacceptably high levels of sex based harassment and discrimination and domestic and family violence.

In the annual reports to WGEA, which were due by the end of May, employers were required under the provisions of the 2012 Workplace Gender Equality Act to report on their efforts to promote and improve gender equality and to identify and remove barriers to women’s full and equal workplace participation.

Areas which should have been addressed in the reports include policies and practice in relation to:

pay equity

family and carer responsibilities

opportunities for professional development and career progression, and

support for staff experiencing domestic or family violence.

Reports to WGEA also contain a range of statistical information in regard to male and female employees and their classification and remuneration levels, employment status (such as permanent, temporary, casual, and whether full or part time) and access to flexible work arrangements for care purposes.

These reports are placed on the WGEA website www.wgea.gov.au and can be valuable resources for IEU reps and members.

Workplace gender inequality is a key priority area of the Change the Rules campaign and is the focus of this year’s IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Women’s Conference on 24 August.

Ultimately, for us as IEU members, it is a question of the type of workplaces we want for ourselves, our students, our own children and grandchildren hopefully workplaces based on values of justice, equity and inclusion.

Pam Smith
Assistant Secretary