Image: still from Mad Men. Image source.
Unfortunately one of the main reasons that gender equality is still so dismal in Australia is that incorrect assumptions are repeatedly being made about where we’re at in this space. Many men (and women) now believe that we have achieved gender equality, for example, or that the gender pay gap is something that no longer exists, when the unfortunate reality is that’s just not the case. A recent investigation by Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, for instance, found that gender equality was still seriously lacking across three key areas in particular: gender economic security, leadership positions and violence against women.
Jenkins’ findings include the experiences of more than 1,000 women, who she interviewed while travelling around every state and territory during a six-month period last year. “I did this report because you need to know you need to know the lay of the land before you make progress,” Jenkins told Guardian Australia. “I think that probably one of the most surprising and concerning findings was just how prevalent the opposition to advancing gender equality is.” In other words, one of the biggest barriers to initiating real change is the fact that “some people are adamantly opposed to proactive initiatives to improve gender equality. [While] other people truly don’t understand this is still problem for Australia,” Jenkins says. “They’re not actively working against equality but there is a sense in the broader community that gender equality has been achieved, which means there is no real motivation for people to do things differently or to promote women or highlight their stories.”
According to Jenkins, many women find that the repercussions for speaking up and reporting harassment or inequality to their managers are worse than the discrimination and harassment itself. One female employee, for instance, told Jenkins that she was labelled as “hysterical” after calling out an instance of sexism. While still another said that she lost shifts at her place of casual employment when she was unable to find childcare at short notice. Of course, these issues are only further exacerbated in rural areas, too. Like for one young woman, who was asked to wear a bikini while fruit picking to get paid a bonus. “A lot of the rural women were really facing greater barriers to women in metro areas,” said Jenkins. “It’s too easy to lump all women together as a homogenous group of white, Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual, able-bodied people, many who feel they are breaking down some of those barriers to equality.”
But it’s really important to hear all the different voices in this conversation, like LGBTI women, older women, women with disabilities, migrant women and Aboriginal women, she explains. Especially since research shows that women with disabilities are 40% more likely than women without disabilities to be the victims of domestic violence; and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 32 times more likely to be admitted to hospital as a result of family violence-related assault than non-Indigenous women in Australia.
“People do need to hear individual experiences and that’s what this report tries to do,” Jenkins told The Guardian. “It tried to document those lived experiences and help those not touched by inequality in their everyday lives to realise deeply embedded barriers to change still remain. And that behind these stories, there is clear data.” Launching her findings today, on International Women’s Day, she reminds us that The World Economic Forum ranks Australia number 46 for female economic participation. Clearly there is still much more that needs to be done.
Via The Guardian
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