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.
When it comes to doing what is morally right, there are some things that are best not left to the market, writes Martijn Boersma, lecturer in the UTS Management Discipline Group.
Last week, CNBC reported that a Goldman Sachs analyst wrote in a note to clients: “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” The argument he allegedly put forward was that healing people with a one-shot cure does not bring in the same revenue stream that chronic therapies do and is therefore bad for business in the long run.
“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.
Today Catalyst Australia launched its CSR Dashboard, which assesses the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of 32 of Australia’s largest companies across six different topics: gender equality, environment, labour standards, supply chain, community investment and engagement. The breadth of research and data analysis that underpins theCSR Dashboard gave the researchers some overall impressions about social and environmental reporting in Australia. Surprisingly, the majority of our leading companies were not up to scratch. Despite being based on well-established global and local standards of good practice, in most cases the criteria used in the CSR Dashboard were too aspirational to be met by the companies in the sample. Only four of the 32 companies provided enough public information to rate their performance in all 20 of the indicators. Ten companies had three or less reporting gaps. At the other end of the spectrum seven of the 32 companies did not achieve a rating in more than half of the 20 indicators. Some topic areas were widely overlooked, such as supply chains. Companies also disclosed selectively around labour standards. The website provides a visual representation of the full results for all companies and topics, as well as background information about the project.
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→