Wednesday 23rd August, 2017
Kindly hosted by Minter Ellison
Committee members and stakeholders came to Dexus Place to hear from author, commentator and journalist Catherine Fox, who recently published the book Stop Fixing Women: Why building fairer workplaces is everybody’s business.
Catherine delivered a stirring message that was reinforced by our panel: we’re a long way off gender equality. While noting that much good work is being done within the Australian business sector and in reporting of workplace gender inequality, Catherine drove home her finding that there are still commonly held beliefs and structural issues that prevent us from achieving gender equality in workplaces.
Catherine made the point that the idea that women are intrinsically different has been awfully convenient. Its operated as the fallback position for why women are more suited to jobs in relationship management and jobs requiring compassion and empathy – typically lower paid jobs – when in fact the neurological differences between women and men are marginal. In late 2016, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reported that the pay gap across all industries and occupations is 23.1%, with women earning on average $26,853 less full-time remuneration than men per year.
Gender diversity is a major public policy debate in Sydney and Australia more generally. The Committee for Sydney believes that effective organisations and leaders are those that recognise diversity and inclusion as essential to business operations. As the World Economic Forum points out, there is “a values-based case for gender equality: women are one-half of the world’s population and deserve equal access to health, education, economic participation and earning potential, and political decision-making power”.
There is also a clear business and broader economic case for workplace gender equality. There are a multitude of reports finding that increasing female workforce participation is linked to increased organisational performance, increased national productivity and economic growth. These include the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, which in 2015 demonstrated the correlation between gender equality and GDP per capita:
Catherine’s central point is that diversity is an issue for everybody. Stop Fixing Women has been referred to as the ‘antidote to Lean In‘; or, the antidote to the idea that women are holding themselves back. That is why initiatives like Male Champions of Change are important, and the Diversity Council of Australia’s recent report ‘Men Make a Difference: Engaging Men on Gender Equality’.
Catherine’s keynote was followed by an engaging and impassioned panel conversation featuring GSC’s Economic Commissioner, Geoff Roberts, Liverpool City Council’s CEO, Kiersten Fishburn, Investa’s CEO Jonathan Callaghan, and Catherine Fox. Our panel provided insights and observations on gender quality in their industries and workplaces.
Some suggestions from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency for achieving broadly equal outcomes for women and men are the following:
- workplaces to provide equal pay for work of equal or comparable value;
- the removal of barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce;
- access to all occupations and industries, including leadership roles, regardless of gender; and
- the elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender, particularly in relation to family and caring responsibilities.
Our thanks to Minter Ellison for hosting this event, Committee board member Virginia Briggs for moderating, our panel and of course, Catherine Fox.