Kristen Hilton

We are all responsible for gender equality

Life gets better by change Jim Rohn.jpg

What’s the benefit of doing an International Women’s Day 2019 breakfast? Plenty, if recent statistics about gender equality in Australia are any indication of how far we have yet to go.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2018, while Australian women may have achieved parity with men for educational attainment, ranking equal first with a number of other nations, it is not translating to the workplace where we are ranked -

  • 46th in the world for Economic Participation and Opportunity, and worse,

  • 49th for Political Empowerment.


This inequality was brought to light when I recently hosted a table at the #balanceforbetter Rotary Breakfast for International Womens Day 2019 at Crown. The panel was comprised of:

  • Catherine Fox - Journalist, author and presenter

  • Kristen Hilton, Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner

  • Josh Bornstein, Director, Maurice Blackburn

  • Fiona Patten, Founder and leader of the Reason Party and politician

  • Rob Hulls, Director, Centre for Innovative Justice

  • Dr Emma Burrows, Research Fellow

Our table had a wonderful discussion on this topic.

As it turns out, “at the current rate of change true gender equality is predicted to still be 117 years away!”

And yet, there should be no reason for the gender gap to remain. According to the Victorian government website:

  • Australia’s GDP would increase by 11% if the gender employment gap was closed.

  • The Australian economy would gain $8 BILLION if women transitioned from tertiary education into the workforce at the same rate as men.

  • Businesses with at least 30% women in leadership positions are 15% more profitable.


Additionally, “it prevents violence against women and girls. Gender equality makes for a more cohesive society. Countries with greater gender equality are more connected. Their people are healthier and have better wellbeing.”


And as Hilary Clinton said back in 1995, when she was the First Lady, when she delivered a speech at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing

Women’s rights are human rights


So how do we continue the work of closing the gender gap?

In the workplace, “it’s not enough to add a 'diversity and inclusion' policy to your organisation and expect that will be enough to fix problems with representation and culture. That change needs to be supported by those at the top.”

We heard from our expert panel about strategies to reduce the gender gap. For example -

  • In the legal profession, this includes hitting the hip pocket for organisations who don’t meet gender equity targets.

  • In schools, males also need to be included and involved. One speaker reflected that she is invited to speak at a lot of girls schools, but no boys schools. Given that gender balance benefits women and men alike, it’s so important for men to understand as early as possible that imbalance affects them too.

  • It’s not a zero sum game.” Contrary to Scott Morisson’s recent comments, “it’s not at the expense of men and we need to ensure we articulate this better as it will only be through demonstrating to men and boys and involving them early that we can speed this up.”

  • Mothers, aunts” as well as other female roles in the family, “are well placed to influence this and demonstrate gender equality... (to) ensure a better and more cohesive society.”


And these are why events like this breakfast are so important - to inform us, and unite us, to make the change we seek, like the experience of those who attended:

“I get so re-energised and refocused by these things.”

“This spurs me to challenge myself and others to step up more to create change.”

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things.
— Mother Theresa

A big thank you to the my guests who attended and contributed to the sentiment and comments in this article: Therese Chakour-West, Nicola Wilson, Gillian Laging, Diane Barbis, Christine Elmer, Caroline Clarke, Kate Westacott, Kerry-Ann Benton, Sue Neal

YOUR THOUGHTS? What else can we do to bring about gender equality? How can you achieve gender equality in the workforce? Drop me a line at ablesing@amandablesing.com 

 
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