Can­berra stoush ex­posed gen­der is­sues in so­ci­ety

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - BUSINESS - DR SILVIA NEL­SON SOUTH­ERN CROSS UNIVER­SITY DR SILVIA NEL­SON IS A LEC­TURER AT THE SOUTH­ERN CROSS UNIVER­SITY SCHOOL OF BUSI­NESS AND TOURISM

RE­CENT events in our Fed­eral Par­lia­ment and within our po­lit­i­cal par­ties have ex­posed some fun­da­men­tal gen­der is­sues in our so­ci­ety, even in the high­est reaches of the land.

Our TV screens have been filled with im­ages and panel dis­cus­sions about gen­der equity, bul­ly­ing, sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sys­tem­atic dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Of course, these events and our own un­der­stand­ing of them are con­di­tioned by our in­di­vid­ual and col­lec­tive his­tory, our cul­tures, ethics and re­la­tion­ships.

They are also con­di­tioned by ap­pli­ca­ble law in 2018 in Aus­tralia, which re­flects so­ci­etal at­ti­tudes and con­vic­tions. How­ever, some would say, the law lags so­ci­etal at­ti­tudes rather than leads them.

But the law is im­por­tant and many parts do shape dis­cus­sion about gen­der and equity.

For in­stance, anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion law (which has been in place for many years at both Commonwealth and State level), Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity law and, more re­cently, sex­ual ha­rass­ment and bul­ly­ing law, which re­flects and shapes our at­ti­tude and be­hav­iour to­wards gen­der is­sues.

There is also a push­back that man­i­fests as the anti-po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness move­ment, which seeks to turn the clock back to a pre­sum­ably hap­pier time when gen­der roles were clearly de­fined and gen­er­ally ac­cepted.

How­ever, it was a long time ago in Aus­tralia when it was gen­er­ally ac­cepted that women’s place was in the home. So­cial at­ti­tudes and em­ploy­ment prac­tices have moved on.

In the pub­lic sec­tor, there is a body of reg­u­la­tion which out­laws gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion and which re­quires mer­it­based em­ploy­ment and promotion, plus a promotion of equal em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­nity.

Over the past 30 years, gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion in pub­lic sec­tor em­ploy­ment has largely dis­ap­peared, de­spite oc­ca­sional oc­cur­rences of em­ploy­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion and more in­stances of bul­ly­ing and sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

In the busi­ness world, lack­ing pub­lic sec­tor reg­u­la­tion but still sub­ject to anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion and em­ploy­ment law, gen­der is­sues bub­ble along.

Sig­nif­i­cant num­bers of women at­tain the high­est lev­els but many more seem to be stuck in the bot­tom reaches of their or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Can this sit­u­a­tion be re­solved? Yes, over time and with ef­fort be­cause it will in­volve stronger val­ues for­ma­tion within or­gan­i­sa­tions where mu­tual re­spect and an ac­knowl­edge­ment be­come the norms for re­la­tion­ship.

The hu­man re­source depart­ment (HRM) de­part­ments of our in­dus­tries and busi­nesses and, in­deed, of our po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the par­lia­ments of our na­tion must face this chal­lenge and con­tinue the hard work of val­ues for­ma­tion of re­spect for the in­di­vid­ual, re­gard­less of gen­der and in­tegrity of re­la­tion­ships.

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