Equal rights fight

Com­mu­nity at­ti­tudes to work must change for women to be equal in the work­place, re­ports CareerOne Edi­tor Cara Jenkin.

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WOMEN now have more op­por­tu­ni­ties to take on high-power ca­reers but work­place lead­ers re­veal the cru­sade for equal­ity may have just be­gun.

For 75 years, women have strived to im­prove their op­por­tu­ni­ties, roles and pay to achieve the same ca­reer suc­cess as men.

For­mal bar­ri­ers, such as leg­is­la­tion, are con­stantly be­ing re­moved or changed to help women achieve suc­cess. This year in­cludes the in­tro­duc­tion of paid parental leave and a man­date for com­pa­nies with more than 100 em­ploy­ees to re­port how they are clos­ing the gen­der pay gap and in­creas­ing the num­ber of women in se­nior po­si­tions.

Women on Boards ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Claire Braund says fe­male work­ers are mak­ing in­roads to achieve equal­ity but only re­cently has so­ci­ety re­alised that pre­vi­ous ef­forts have not been as ef­fec­tive as re­quired.

‘‘The key thing is gen­der has only re­ally had the agenda since mid-2009 as be­ing an is­sue,’’ she says.

‘‘Ev­ery­one felt that in the past 20 years, with the num­ber of women com­ing through, it would fix it­self. But it hasn’t.

‘‘It’s more pre­dom­i­nant now that we do have these heav­ily ex­pe­ri­enced and qual­i­fied women who don’t have any (ca­reer) path­ways.’’

She says the ma­jor path­way re­quired for women to move into more lead­er­ship roles is for women to stay on their ca­reer track while they have chil­dren.

She says it is not an ei­ther/or sit­u­a­tion but the Aus­tralian cul­ture to date has been that peo­ple are work­ing or are hav­ing a fam­ily.

The two need to be mu­tu­ally in­clu­sive rather than ex­clu­sive, Ms Braund says.

For ex­am­ple, se­nior ex­ec­u­tive women can still keep tabs on their ca­reer when step­ping out of the work­force to have chil­dren by be­ing in­volved on the board of not-for­profit or­gan­i­sa­tions.

‘‘Most peo­ple think it’s a woman’s is­sue,’’ Ms Braund says.

‘‘It’s not a women’s is­sue. It’s about men and women.

‘‘I think peo­ple at ev­ery stage of their ca­reer. It’s a work cul­ture.’’

Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Sta­tis­tics fig­ures show that women now make up 45 per cent of the work­force, com­pared to 36 per cent 30 years ago.

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