Government | Regulation // Leadership | Diversity | Inclusion

Gender equality is the unfinished business of the 21st century

“Gender equality is the unfinished business of the 21st century,” Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick has told a CEDA audience.


Ms Broderick said organisations now recognise that women’s issues are workplace issues.

"I think the case is that leaders across Australia recognise that high performance is dependent on achieving a strong level of gender diversity in organisations," she said.

Ms Broderick said that 70 per cent of unpaid care work including caring for families and the elderly is done by women, further increasing the gender pay gap and access to retirement funds.

"If I could do one thing as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner to create a gender equal Australia it would be the better sharing of paid and unpaid work between men and women," she said.

In order to improve this, Ms Broderick said workplace flexibility is vital. 

Also speaking at the event, McKinsey & Co Managing Director, John Lydon said flexibility needs both business and client support to work.

All roles being flexible "is good but you actually need to put some incentives in place in a business like ours to encourage people to take it," he said.

Mr Lydon said men in senior positions need to take flexible work opportunities so there are role models for junior male partners.

More men in flexible roles also enables partners to go back or stay in the workforce, he said. 

AusNet Services Managing Director and CEO, Nino Ficca said progression opportunities, infrastructure and culture are important for attracting female talent.

"If you want to attract women, the best way of doing that is having a great track record on these things in the first place," he said.

AusNet has an almost 100 per cent retention rate for women coming back to work after having families, a sign their work practices are effective, he said.

On the topic of getting women to apply for leadership roles, Executive Group Managing Director, Jo Fisher said it is about encouraging clients and recruiters to have different conversations in interviews and a greater mix on selection committees.

"Sometimes it is about framing the conversation…encourage women to take the time and also think about their strengths, around the possibilities for these roles," she said.