She who shares her story of…

A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane

The Story

There has been significant work done historically to bring equality, diversity and inclusion into the workplace.  Let’s all be reminded of some highlights that have taken place in Australia over the years:-

1882First female trade union established 1882 (The Tailoresses’ Association of Melbourne)
1884Women gained the right to attend university, and married women the right to own property, thanks to the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society
1890The Working Women’s Trades Union was established to create better working conditions for young women
1891Age of Consent for women raised from 13 to 16
1894Education for Blind and Deaf children made compulsory and provision of special schools for blind and deaf children
1895Women win the right to vote and stand for elections in SA (only the 4th place in the world to do so)
1902Non-Indigenous women won the right to vote in federal elections in 1902 and were allowed to stand for the Australian Parliament for the first time
1908Women granted the right to vote in Victorian state elections but were still not allowed to stand for election
1919First female appointed to local government in Australia (SA)  
1924Women granted the right to stand for election in Victoria  
1943First woman elected to Australia House of Representatives and Senate
1956Marriage bar lifted enabling women teachers to continue teaching after marriage
1961Access to the contraceptive pill – albeit with a 27.5% luxury tax
1962All Indigenous Australians win the right to enrol and vote in Federal elections
1965Women allowed to drink in public bars of pubs
1966Marriage Bar lifted for all working women – no longer forced to relinquish their paid work and superannuation rights
1967Aboriginal men and women recognised as Australian citizens
1969Abortion rights granted on reasonable grounds that an abortion is necessary and proportionate, based on a woman’s physical and mental wellbeing being in serious danger
1972Right to Equal Pay for women – A million female workers became eligible for full pay, and an overall rise in women’s wages of around 30%
1972Federal Childcare Act meant that centre-based day care facilities were funded for children of sick or working parents, soon followed by family day care, after school hours care and playgroups.
1972Single Mothers benefit introduced
1973Paid maternity leave for commonwealth employees
1974Equal minimum wage granted
1975First woman cabinet minister appointed
1975Women can file for “no fault” divorce (the court did not consider which partner was at fault in the marriage breakdown)
1975Racial Discrimination Act passed
1976Rape in marriage outlawed in SA
1977Victorian Equal Opportunity Act outlawed discrimination based on marital status and gender in employment, education, accommodation and provision of goods and services.
1979Women employed long-term (more than 12 months) entitled to 52 weeks unpaid maternity leave
1984The Sex Discrimination Act was introduced, which prohibited discrimination on the basis on sex, marital or relationship status, pregnancy, sexual orientation and breastfeeding in public areas
1986First woman speaker in the House of Representatives
1986The Affirmative Action Act (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) was introduced to create equal employment for Australian women in the workforce
1987First woman appointed as High Court Judge
1989The first Australian female head of Government, Rosemary Follett AO, was appointed Chief Minister in the ACT
1992Superannuation Guarantee ensured employers contributed for all employees (previously not mandatory to contribute for women)
1995Victorian Equal Opportunity Act amended to outlaw sexual harassment
1999The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act was introduced to improve and promote equality in the workplace and remove barriers to women’s workforce participation
2005Crimes Act amended to remove the defence of provocation which had been used to have murder reduced to the lesser charge of manslaughter. From this point on, situations in which a person kills as a response to long-term abuse and family violence would be taken into account
2008Abortion decriminalised in Victoria
2008First female Governor
2010First female Prime Minister
2011First Aboriginal woman elected to UN permanent forum on Indigenous issues
2011Australia’s first paid parental leave scheme – allows eligible working parents to receive parental leave pay for 18 weeks while taking time off to care for newborns or newly adopted children
2012The Workplace Gender Equality Act was introduced to promote improved gender equality in Australian workplaces
2016First Indigenous woman elected to House of Representatives
2017Launch of Women’s Australian Football League (AFLW)
2017First woman to breastfeed in the Senate Chamber
2018Tax on tampons and sanitary items removed – no longer defined as “luxury” items
2018Australia women’s soccer team (Matildas) earn the same pay as the Australian men’s soccer team (Socceroos)
2019Gender equality achieved in the Senate (38 women / 38 men)
2019Abortion decriminalised in NSW
2019Tasmania amends Gag Laws for Sexual Assault enabling survivors of sexual crime in Tasmania to speak freely in public
2019Gender Equality Bill introduced to Victorian Parliament – placing gender equality in law for the first time in Australia
2020Australia’s independent Human Rights Commission completed a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

I am a woman in my 60s now and no longer working, but I have worked in male-dominated industries. You can see from the timeline that in my lifetime women have been able to continue working after getting married and having children, paid parental leave and childcare have enabled both parents to both juggle work and enjoy what comes with being a parent, and women achieved equality with superannuation ensuring a more secure retirement.

The standout for me though is that everyone now has access (by law) to employment opportunities based on merit with no regard to gender, sexual orientation, religious background, age, physical disability, ethnicity, colour, etc.

Because of the protesting and lobbying of women and men who highly value diversity and inclusion, we have those advantages in the workplace that we enjoy today.

But the fight is not yet over.  There is still more that can be done. 

Everyone should be –

  •   equally paid for the same work
  •   safe on the streets and in their homes
  •   equally represented in our parliament and leadership positions

The Message

Research has shown many benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace higher revenue growth, greater readiness to innovate, increased ability to recruit a diverse talent pool and 5.4 times higher employee retention.

Women are underrepresented in key decision-making roles across almost all industries in the Australian workforce. While women make up half of the employees in the 2019-20 WGEA dataset (50.5%), women comprise only:

  • 32.5% of key management positions
  • 28.1% of directors
  • 18.3% of CEOs
  • 14.6% of board chairs.

Equal pay is when men and women receive equal pay for work of equal or comparable value.

Organisations that are committed to equal pay will ensure that the wages and conditions of jobs are assessed in a non-discriminatory way. This is done by valuing skills, responsibilities and working conditions in each job or job type (even where the work itself is different) and then remunerating employees accordingly. Furthermore, equal pay achieved by the workplace’s organisational structures and processes do not impede female employees’ access to work-based training, promotions or flexible working arrangements.

Diversity and inclusion is not a women’s problem, it is a societal one that everyone has a part to play in continuing the ongoing efforts that have been achieved today.

The Call to Action

Honour the women and men who have fought for diversity and inclusion – from the suffragettes in the late 1800s to the people who make it possible for you to work and thrive in your chosen field today.

Where you see inequality, call it out – support those who are less able to be included where they should be.

Leaders should champion diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace, valuing everyone for the authenticity they bring to the table.