A bold objective not enough without a cultural change

Thursday will mark International Women’s Day and a timely reminder of the many outstanding issues that persist when it comes to gender equality.

A recent report from the University of Sydney shows for all its best intentions there is the disturbing sense one day of focus is simply not enough on this issue.  The report found an overwhelming majority of Australian working women say that respect is their top priority at work, but in a headline finding it also highlighted that less than a third of young Australian working women believe they are treated equally to men.

While being treated with respect was crucial for 80 per cent of women, only two thirds believed they actually were treated respectfully by their manager. Fewer than a third of women thought men and women were treated equally at work, while half of men surveyed did. 

Worse still, given the widespread publicity about the importance of boundaries and behaviour at work, as many as ten per cent of women said they had been sexually harassed at work. 

The harassment is one problem but what exacerbates these unacceptable acts, is a fear of victims to raise the issue due to a culture of obstruction, fear of repercussions or any meaningful, resultant action.

If these are the alarming revelations about a reluctance to cultural change there is also the broader and more complex problem surrounding life work balance and in particular the disproportionate cost women are paying in their careers for taking time off for motherhood. The survey also found  an alarming trend for women to delay childbirth, or give up on having kids altogether, to safeguard their careers. 

Communities of Respect and Equality Alliance have brought these figures to a more local level and show while the Grampians region has generally reached gender equality education it is not translating into equal employment or leadership. The imbalance continues in full, part time  and unpaid labour, most particulalrly unpaid domestic work and childcare.

These are vital snapshots of where we are located in an ongoing struggle to overcome inequity, absence of opportunity and lost potential. There are some important events taking place for International Women’s Day across Ballarat and much as these are a celebration of achievements and progress, these results indicate how much more there is to do.