I am also both grateful and humbled by the thoughtful and lengthy responses.
A heart wrenching story was relayed to me about a brother and sister and there being sufficient funds only for one to receive a tertiary education. As desperate as the sister was to study at University, the funds were allocated to her brother, because he was the male.
The lady in question did achieve an education thanks to the support of an Aunt and declared that no matter what, all her children would have the opportunity to study. The person who relayed this story is the daughter of the lady who received her Aunt’s help and has herself completed 5 degrees while working and raising a family.
This is progress and within the space of a lifetime too.
As controversial as this may sound, little or no real progress has been made towards gender equality in Australia in this century. I therefore ask, "in Australia, is International Women’s Day part of a cruel hoax where Women are again the victim?
Let us look at how Australia is tracking in several areas: *
1. The Gender Pay Gap
The gender pay gap stands at 15.3% having closed by 3% since 2014.
If you consider this to be progress, or even a start in the right direction, you would be wrong.
In 2004, the pay gap was 14.9 so it has actually increased.
The gender pay gap has actually widened, not narrowed these last 14 years.
2. Female Representation at Senior Levels in Business
Women make up 25% of Board Directors in Australia and only 25 of the ASX200 companies have targets in place to increase female representation.
Further, top-tier female managers earn $93,000 less than their peers, yes, ninety-three thousand dollars less.
I guess this is no surprise given the pay gap has widened.
I have seen no studies suggesting there is less discrimination, sexual harassment or violence against women than there was 10, 15 or 20 years ago.
So, what is being celebrated?
There does appear to be progress in some professions.
Take Medicine for example
Certainly, there are no barriers to entry in to Medical studies. You meet the criteria or you don’t.
In 2016/17, there were more Women than Men in General Practice in Australia **
On the surface, this is an encouraging trend however are there other factors to consider.
Why do Women account for less than one-third of advanced vocational trainees in general surgery, intensive care and oral and maxillofacial surgery?
Could it be the reported relative high propensity for allegations of sexual harassment and bullying that have plagued male-dominated medical professions like surgery and intensive care?
What affect does this have on Women choosing General Practice and hence the higher percentage of total GP’s?
So what has progress stalled?
In a male dominated world, it seems the expectation is for Women to be more like “us”. This must be an unachievable expectation and must be a concept we reject. After all, it has not worked.
To support this, I quote the following feedback:
“But the quality and energy that is being done in now and days like today, is very masculine. What I mean by that is it feels very hard, women ‘pushing’ an agenda and it actually feels very imposing. Not only on men, but also other women.”
Further, the following words of historian Mary Beard were brought to my attention:
"You can’t easily fit women into a structure that is already coded as male; you have to change the structure.”
Our environment today is one where we value “disruption” such as Uber, AirBnB and Amazon, all who have achieved stunning results in a very short space of time.
We need gender equality disruption and my random list to progress this is:
· A new energy is needed for a world where Men and Women meet in the middle where all gender can be true to themselves and let go past behaviour expectations . The idea that equality will be achieved by Women becoming more like Men is as failed as it is ludicrous. It is a joint responsibility.
· Men can demand equality. Male actors in Hollywood have refused to commit to projects unless pay gaps with their female co-stars were closed. Locally, when their female colleagues had little or no bargaining power, high profile male AFL players stood up for AFL Women to get a better deal as part of the new pay and conditions agreement. Elite male cricketers refused to agree to a new pay deal until conditions for Women and “less elite” males were improved despite Cricket Australia’s attempt to divide and conquer. Sporting pay gaps are still huge but in AFL and Cricket, there was progress.
· Us Men have a responsibility and must realise we are activists and beneficiaries and not spectators in the gender equality challenge.
· Human Resource areas have a huge role to play. They are in positions to demand greater parity across their organisation and to devise and enforce appropriate policies. They must also hand over their role as being where complaints are made to and where they are investigated. This must be independent and seen to be so.
· Women who achieve high positions in Corporate Life must become activists on behalf of change. Female CEO’s have been great at addressing women’s forums on women’s issues and challenges. However, they need to be speaking at far more diverse forums about gender equality while demanding change within their own organisations. What if Gail Kelly as CEO of Westpac had decreed that supplies would be sourced only from organisations that could demonstrate adherence to equal employment and opportunity practices and to robust complaint handling processes?
In summary, the most interesting thing for me coming out of International Women’s Day are:
1. The huge diversity in just what the day means to Women and Men.
2. It is a valued opportunity to take a break and celebrate those who went before and battled for what Women have today.
3. There is no correlation with #metoo
The most concerning thing I have discovered is just how little progress has been made in Australia in so many areas and just how much has still to be done.
I also learned that we may be delusional about what has been achieved in real terms over the last 20 years.
* Article including links to source data quoted