OPINION PIECE: Why we need more men in the gender equity debate



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Opinion piece by CEDA, Chief Executive, Professor the Hon Stephen Martin discusses why gender equity isn’t 'a women’s issue'.

This opinion piece by CEDA, Chief Executive, Professor the Hon Stephen Martin discusses why gender equity isn't a 'women's issue'.

Gender equality in the workplace makes good business sense, yet it seems that few are willing to tackle it seriously and in particular, it seems to remain for many men a non-issue.

The reality is that if we are going to seriously make a difference, more men are going to need to recognise and engage in implementing change and it is the business community that should be leading the way.

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The results of a survey of more than 600 business people, predominantly women, being released today by CEDA as part of its research into Women in Leadership, found that more than 50 per cent had been discriminated against on the basis of gender. More worrying, a whopping 93 per cent thought there were still barriers to gender equality in the workplace.

Many women from the business community will probably be unsurprised by these results but what is concerning is that many men are likely to dismiss the results as not concerning them.

A recent story I heard about a senior female working in a male dominated industry for a large organisation highlighted an example of how this issue is often being tackled from the wrong end or perhaps not from enough ends.

She was rounded up with the few other females working in her industry and those of various ethnic minorities to undertake discrimination training so that they could identify if they were being discriminated against in the workplace in relation to gender or race.

As was rightly pointed out, while this was well meaning, most had been minorities in the workplace for a long time and what would have been more useful was for everyone else to undergo training on how not to discriminate based on gender or race in the first place.

This isn't just a women's issue and we need to stop approaching it as if it is.

We also need to move away from the debate related to the question as to whether women can have it all.

What we need to be examining is how responsibility can be shared and more flexibility provided in our workplaces for both sexes.

At the moment even where flexibility is offered, it is primarily taken up by women and if they take up this option they are likely to forgo any chance of progression or promotion.

Our workplaces are based around 9 to 5 and full-time. The eight hour day was introduced in Australia more than 150 years ago. Maybe it's time for a rethink.

By mainstreaming flexibility we can move away from part-time work being seen as 'women's work'.

We also need businesses to look at measures such as introducing routine structured pay audits to identify potential pay gaps and businesses to be running education programs about the detrimental effects of bias, both conscious and unconscious.

While some feel this issue will resolve over time, the reality is that we've had more women than men graduating from our universities since the 1980s and yet this is not being reflected in our workplaces to our economy's detriment, because it means that we are not utilising the skills and labour resources we have available.

Reporting and voluntary targets have been good steps but there is no single solution to this problem and our research shows that unless business continues a concerted effort to unravel the causes to this imbalance, then we are never going to see the progress required.

Read the report