ODE TO AUSTRALIA
Australia Day is fast approaching and some of us are just returning to work with (hopefully) a fresh sense of purpose and a new feeling of inspiration after a chance to relax over the break. I was reading recently so many articles on the gender pay gap, the long tyranny of distance still to travel when it comes to equality in the workplace and the challenges that we, as women have to face when it comes to our career.
But if we can think more broadly about our quality of life here in Australia and the backdrop that we work against, I do think it’s important to reflect optimistically on the incredibly positive things about our Australian political and business environment. While it’s not perfect and there are certainly still long strides to be made, there are some incredibly progressive and enlightened qualities of Australia’s current state of affairs.
A business landscape positioned for change – With government resources and agencies like the Women’s Gender Equality Agency established and gaining increasingly high profile in the Australian media, it’s becoming obvious that the business landscape in Australia is serious about gender equity. Our largest and most successful organisations, as well as our most innovative and nimble ones, are being taken to task on researching, reporting and acting on issues like the percentage of women on boards, in senior leadership positions and pay equity. It’s becoming very difficult for companies here in Australia to sweep these issues under the rug as those with inequality in the workplace are being called into the spotlight. To me, this means change is coming... and quickly.
And men formally supporting the issue of gender equality – Groups like Male Champions of Change are providing a platform for male leaders to have a stronger voice as well when it comes to viewing gender diversity through the lens of being good ‘business sense” if nothing else. Seems the dividends of diversity are becoming undeniable and this, in itself, is a very powerful message. To quote their 2013 report, Accelerating the Advancement of Women in Leadership, “If we want gender balance to be the norm in our organisations, we must create the conditions and cultures that enable both men and women to thrive.”
Strong female political leaders – Women like Julie Bishop (feminist or not), Elizabeth Broderick and Peta Credin are making waves in recent months and are preceding themselves with reputations as effective, clever and talented leaders. Our picture of an inclusive government where females are real political players is no longer a pipe dream. Whether you agree with their views and policies or not, we must admit, it’s refreshing and inspiring to see role models like these tackling some of our biggest national challenges.
So, while, of course, I do agree that our business community here in Australia still does have a long way to go to reach a truly diverse and inclusive workplace where men and women are truly equally represented, I think it’s also important to recognise progress. As many of us get together this weekend too to listen to an Australian tradition, the Hottest 100 on ABC’s Triple J, it’s cool to note that they were responsible for the first female DJ on our radio airwaves, Gayle Austin. "I was given one midnight-to-dawn shift a week, a move so radical that I was the cause of much negative comment after our first survey of listeners,” she says. 'Why do you have a woman on air? What do women know about music?'” *
These are movements, groups and people that could not have been imagined forty or even twenty years ago... and that’s something to celebrate.