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Celebrating International Women’s Day – Gender Equality

After what feels like the planning of a military operation, I attended The Equal Futures Project – Mind the Gap breakfast, a celebration of International Women’s Day. Why a military operation you ask? Well as a working mum, the planning that goes into getting there feels just like that!

Starting earlier in the week, I carefully thought of my plan of attack to ensure at 7.00am this morning I would be sitting at the table listening to the panel of business leaders discussing the gaps that exist for both women and men in the workplace and how they can be addressed. With my partner on night shift, it was going to require a strategy!

A sleep over at mum’s the night before would do the trick, I could sneak out early and get to the breakfast while the kids slept blissfully unaware that mum was not there. Nanna would then execute her role in the operation by getting breakfast organized and ready for school. At precisely 8.20am I would leave the breakfast early (unfortunately) and whiz back to Nanna’s just in time to collect my son, Brody and have him to the school gate by 8.50am. My youngest, Bella would then spend the day with Nanna. It sounded like a great plan!

Like all great plans things can and do go wrong. While I made it to the breakfast, a few grenades were thrown at me along the way. A realisation at 9.00pm last night that I had packed the normal school uniform instead of sports, so in the car and back home to collect. Then what should have been a well timed pick up and drop off to school was foiled by my daughter’s tears not wanting me to leave her. Is there nothing else that can break your heart more than your child crying for you not to go? Not long after, I received text messages and photos from Nanna to prove that she is totally fine and happy!

At times being a working mother can be challenging, both emotionally and physically! I loved when host, Natasha Beyersdorf opened the breakfast by sharing a similar experience of being up super early to ensure everything was organized at home for children to get off to school. I imagine that most women and a number of men in the room had a similar preparation to get along today. But they got there! And yes I know plenty of men who share the responsibility of organizing child care while they and their partners manage work commitments.

Listening to these business leaders got me thinking about the issue of gender equity, inconsistency between individuals due to gender, covering areas of health and equal opportunity in terms of employment and wages.

Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, in collaboration with the Australian Government’s Gender Equality Agency (, recently released a report that explores gender pay gaps across industries, occupations and management levels.

Some Key Findings of the report are;

  • Female Top Tier Managers working full time earn on average $100,000 a year less than male Top Tier Managers.
  • Gender pay gaps are a career-long penalty for women.
  • Increased female representation on boards narrows the pay gap.

It is shocking to think that a woman doing the same job, for the same organisation at a Top Tier Management level would earn $100,000, close to $2000 a week, less than their male equivalent. The full time gender pay gap is around 18%. So why is this bad? Other than the obvious issue of it not being fair, it is bad for women in terms of personal and economic freedom, there is a loss of human capital potential and an impairment of economic growth for our nation. An interesting comment was made by a panelist this morning that he had observed a greater female board representation in Asia than here in Australia during his career.

I believe that discussion and debate about how to promote gender equity is very important in addressing the economic and social issues facing our nation.

Today’s breakfast brings these issues into the spotlight. The Equal Futures Project is a local group of business leaders dedicated to raising awareness and funds that will facilitate gender equity in the region. An initiative of the group is the Hunter Diversity Awards. The awards recognize and celebrate the diversity champions amongst our community, those who have discovered what works in making their organisation and/or community a fairer, more equitable and more successful place to live and work. Some deserving winners were announced this morning, among some fantastic finalists.

So, what can we do to improve gender equality in the workplace?

Research shows that the following can help promote gender equality;

  • Establish a policy that ensures men and women are compensated equally for performing the same work
  • Ensure men and women are treated equally in recruitment, training, hiring and promotion
  • Establish a policy that allows both men and women to balance their work lives with their personal lives
  • Establish a policy that strictly and specifically forbids any form of sexual harassment. (It is against the law!!)
  • Ensure all management personnel follow these policies to the letter, policies mean nothing if management do not act as role models

I have been fortunate enough to work in an environment that fosters the development of all team members, male and female, with flexibility to manage work and my family. These matters are very important to both men and women. Many of us want to participate in the workforce and go to a lot of effort to make that happen, to fit everything in and ensure our clients, customers, employers and family needs are met.

While the above points seem like obvious steps for any organisation, unfortunately even in 2016 they do not exist across all of business. It was great to see the message getting out there this morning and being championed by our communities’ business leaders.

International Women’s Day 2016 is on March 8th and is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

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