Gender equality, gender pay gaps, paid leave and even childcare remain, distressingly so, big issues in Australia’s advertising and media agencies. In fact, they remain big issues in workplaces full stop.
B&T regularly reports on the agenda and covers the issues via our ongoing Changing The Ratio editorial series brought to you by our good friends CHE Proximity and Adrenalin Media.
And amid the turmoil that is a global pandemic, a new Australian whitepaper says now is the time to fix institutionalised problems that have traditionally held women back in the workforce, namely around childcare and industrial relations.
The research paper, titled the Better Decisions Better Futures report, was conducted by eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant (main photo) and included the input from host of other prominent women that included Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, the Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador, Lisa Harvey-Smith, and the head of Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, Heather Nancarrow.
The research noted: “The current period provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remove structural barriers to women’s full participation in the workforce, including the high effective marginal tax rate created by childcare costs and undervaluing of feminised industries.”
Just last month, an Australian Bureau of Statistics report found that CV-19 had seen Australian men reduce their hours of paid work by 7.5 per cent, while for women it was 11.5 per cent. While a higher proportion of women (8.1 per cent) than men (6.2 per cent) lost their jobs between mid-March and mid-April.
While a McKinsey Global Institute study released last week estimated that Australia could increase the size of its economy by 12 per cent (or $225 billion) in five years from accelerating progress towards gender parity.
The Better Decisions Better Futures report again reinforced that expensive childcare remained a barrier for many women returning to the workforce or taking on more hours.
“Increasing the affordability of early childhood education and care boosts economic output by directly increasing women’s participation and productivity in the paid workforce,” the report noted.
“The global pandemic has highlighted that early childhood education is an essential service.
“It has also exposed multiple vulnerabilities in Australia’s early childhood education and care arrangements, including over-reliance on unwaged labour to support the functioning of the economy, and poor remuneration of early childhood education staff.”
Just last week, the National Skills Commission’s jobs survey ranked childcare workers alongside truck drivers as the hardest occupations to fill. (Motor mechanics, managers and retail sales assistants rounded out the top five.)
When it came to gender pay imbalances The Better Decisions Better Futures report noted: “In particular, reforms could clarify and improve opportunities for part-time, casual, temporary and flexible work, address conditions which impede women’s and parents’ full participation in work, and provide better mechanisms to support gender-equal pay.”
Thus far, a number of the federal government’s CV-19 job stimulus measures have focused on male-dominated professions such as home building or infrastructure projects at the expense of female-dominated industries “including retail trades, hospitality and the arts,” the research noted.
“Investment in industry recovery and job creation should include incentives and supports to recruit women, especially in traditionally male-dominated sectors like mining, construction and trades,” it said.
Other recommendations of the report included training more women into careers that include a focus on STEM and digital literacy.
Another idea was to allow women who take time off work to raise children and families to make super contributions while on maternity leave and make catch-up payments when they return to work.