Australia is dragging the chain on gender diversity: survey

by Stephanie Zillman30 Apr 2013

Nearly two thirds (65%) of women believe Australia has fallen behind globally in the push to improve workplace gender diversity, a new survey has found.

The findings from the online survey by Executive Women Australia (EWA) included:

  • 65% of women believe Australia’s failure to introduce executive gender targets or mandatory board quotas has pushed us behind other countries.
  • Equal pay policies, targets for gender representation and flexible working hours are the leading considerations for women in the upcoming Federal election.

The survey also revealed the factors that will matter to women in the upcoming federal election. Some 57% of women said equal pay policies in the workplace is one of the most important considerations politicians should be addressing.

A further one in two women (51%) labelled targets for gender representation at senior levels of government and corporations an important consideration, while a similar number identified flexible working hours for men and women (50%).

EWA executive director, Tara Cheesman, said the results reflect a feeling of frustration amongst women, who want to see talk transformed into action. “What we found was a large proportion of women who no longer feel Australia is at the forefront of gender diversity legislation. Many believe we are now a considerable distance behind a range of European countries that are seeing quality results through deliberate top-tier gender initiatives, many of which include mandatory board quotas.”

Cheesman added now is the time for real leadership that can finally overcome a decade of little progress. “We need a more proactive approach to motivate cultural change, and get to a position where all appointments are based on merit and experience, not gender,” she said.

“We need to build toward a future where government, business and women’s groups work together to solve the gender diversity issue in the workplace.”

Cheesman said that whilst the issues that shape today’s executive gender divide are complicated, that is cultural, social and personal; the solution involves the implementation of specific action areas.  “Beyond the Government’s policies to tackle workplace diversity, it is the broader steps like unbiased recruitment selection processes, setting internal targets, ensuring flexible working hours, improving the parental paid leave scheme and meeting the growing cost of childcare that will level the playing field, and allow women to pursue career opportunities,” she said.

The survey revealed that 50 per cent of woman would be more likely to apply for an executive role with a company if they knew they set high gender diversity standards.


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