Australia and other countries around the world continue to struggle in progressing gender equality in the workforce: the gender pay gap remains prevalent, and women are less likely to advance professionally compared to men, due to gender-based barriers. This paper examines the Australian public, political and academic debate around the topic of women, work and industrial relations in 2017.
Throughout 2017, public interest, parliamentary debate and academic research about women, work and industrial relations centred around a few key themes: pay and income inequality, health and well-being at work and the intersection of paid and unpaid work. These themes were identified in three related yet distinct mediums: the media, parliamentary debate and academic literature. Automated content analysis software was used to assist in the thematic analysis of media articles and the House of Representatives Hansard, supplemented by a manual analysis of relevant academic publications. A thematic overlap was evident across the three datasets, despite the time lag associated with academic research and publication. This is a significant finding, emphasising that the inequalities experienced by women in the labour market are long term and entrenched.
Medibank Private, Mirvac Group, DUET Group, Spark Infrastructure and Woolworths are among the top ASX 100 companies for appointing women to boards, a new report says.
Some of the worst in the same index include TPG Telecom and Qube Holdings, with no female board members. Westfield had one woman on its board out of 12 spots and Oil Search has one out of nine, the Catalyst think tank report released on Tuesday shows.
“Empowerment of the world’s women is a global imperative,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at the 2016 World Economic Forum. Although the worldwide trend to promote equal opportunities has also impacted Australia, progress in the corporate world is slow and a change in pace is required. Improving disclosures is a good place to start.
In 2010, the ASX Corporate Governance Council made several amendments to its Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations. The most prominent change was that companies should publicly disclose the number of female directors, senior managers and total number of women in the workforce, as well as progress against diversity objectives established by the board.
New research by Catalyst Australia finds that ASX50 listed companies – Australia’s largest companies and industry leaders – tick all the gender reporting boxes. But while some progress is made concerning women on boards, facilitating the career advancement of women into executive positions remains a problem area.
Likewise, while ASX50 companies do refer to pay equity, our research finds their disclosures are limited and often do not include figures for management or the workforce.
I recently wrote a post about the proposal to implement a quota to increase female participation in boardrooms after a mere 24 companies signed up to a voluntary pledge.
It now seems that the news of a quota has also made its way into the boardroom of the Führerbunker. In case you don’t know your internet memes, which I don’t believe for a second but still, I’ll give the video below some context: One scene of the film Downfall, in which Hitler launches into a furious rant, is frequently parodied by placing new subtitles to the footage. Initially YouTube blocked all Downfall parodies after complaints by Constantin films, but they are currently only placing advertisements on some of the uploaded videos as most parodies are viewed as fair use cases, which means that I won’t get into trouble 😉
Leading up to International Women’s Day, European Union (EU) justice commissioner Viviane Reding announced that she is considering enforcing a quota to break the glass ceiling and increase the participation of women in the boardrooms of European companies. This suggestion has stirred debate about the possible downsides of such a quota, especially in comparison with voluntary targets that aim to increase gender equality in European big business.
Sexist objections include platitudes such as the board meeting having to end at three o’clock because the CEO must pick up the children from school, half of the board of directors having synchronised menstrual cycles causing the top of the company to be instable, and CFO’s only being available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Obviously, there are also serious objections to the quota. Hypothetically, a quota could mean that women that are insufficiently qualified will become members of boards, merely to meet the numbers prescribed by the European Union. This would not only make these women token board members, but it would also mean that a potentially sufficiently qualified male would be denied a job that he would be more suitable for. And would an emancipated woman really want a job that has been created thanks to a job quota? Wouldn’t she be regarded as merely having made it into the board room due to EU regulation? Continue reading Smashing the Glass Ceiling: Getting Women into European Boardrooms→
On 13 September Human Rights Watch released the report Controlling Bodies, Denying Identities: Human Rights Violations Against Trans People in the Netherlands in which they argue that article 28 of the Dutch Civil Code violates the human rights of transgender people. According to Human Rights Watch, article 28 of the Dutch Civil Code does so because it requires transgender people to take hormones, undergo surgery and to be permanently and irreversibly sterilised before they can have their gender recognised on official legal documents.
A similar issue concerning gender identity and legal documentation became apparent in Australia in 2010 when the Sydney Morning Herald published an article about the then 48-year-old Norrie May-Welby from Sydney. Born with male sexual characteristics, May-Welby underwent hormone treatments and surgery for twenty-five years to be able to live a life as a woman, but now wanted to go through life genderless. Although the state New South Wales provided May-Welby with documentation that granted her this status, the local authorities later claimed that they could only issue documents that mention gender as being male or female.May-Welbie decided to put forward a complaint to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. Continue reading Thinking Outside of the Box: Gender Trouble in Australia and the Netherlands→