Status of Women 2014

Nine Stories on the Status of Women

The first story was told to me about a proposal being put to someone’s recent board meeting suggesting that the organisation needed to do far more about the status of women in their particular workforce. That is, along with the business councils in Australia,  the organisation could devise some manner by which annually they recognise and award the female achievers.

In a world of inequity, the reactions should not have been so surprising.

The men were in the majority in the room (no surprise there). Once the draft concept had been put on the table for further development or other ideas, nearly all of the men deferred to the two women present. Apparently the men did not have firm enough convictions on this topic.

Unfortunately the two women spoke against any form of affirmative action to promote and mentor women. They said that they were doing alright and that it is about having the talent to succeed and that they were not experiencing any form of gender inequity and therefore there was nothing to be done about this proposal. There was one male only who spoke passionately in favour. Most of the men then fell in line with the do nothing line and the proposal was dumped.

Later two of the men, who were senior in their own workplaces, said that they had checked with their own women employees and that they had all stated that women did not require any special attention in an industrial sense. It was apparently quite stunning that these men simply missed the point that they were the employers, and therefore in the position of power,  and that the young women they employed were not game to speak out against on such an issue.

Luckily while this group and other similar professions continue to miss the point on this and other important debates, many in the rest of the world are continuing to work away on these matters.

Story Two: The US House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has recognised that even though she has reached an internationally respected top position, the issue of gender equity is very much alive in society. She recently made statement to this effect – click here. She linked the role of money in politics to how women find it difficult to succeed in US political life.

rabbott01Story Three: In Australia Anne Summers has continued monitoring the situation of the status of women and has commented on the wolf in sheep’s clothing about to descend on Australian society courteous of the Rabbott government. Under the guise of removing ‘red tape’ the government is cutting all sorts of measures that assist in measuring any efforts to bring about equity in the workforce. Anna has a good report on this issue – click here.

Story Four:  I heard was about one male employer who in an effort to distract from doing anything real about the issue of gender inequality, has put together a short film on female employees and his female colleagues. On the surface it sounds very celebratory and should assist. The reality is that his little production has ended up being more of a statement that everything is all right for women in the workforce and that ‘you should not worry about such things girls!’

Story Five: (from the ABC News) The Australian sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick says the lack of women in Parliament has a direct impact on major issues affecting women. Speaking on International Women’s Day, Ms Broderick says she supports any measure that would boost the number of women in Parliament. “We absolutely need power to be shared in the Parliament between men and women. There is an assumption well-educated Australian women will just trickle into positions of power. We know it’s not true. What we do still need is some active intervention.” (full story – click here)

Story Six: There is a positive story from the USA. Museum directors have suddenly discovered to their surprise that 57 percent of major museum’s directors in the USA are women. That story is in the Washington Post – click here.

Story Seven: But Wait! then there is the story that in the US women hold fewer than 50% of directorships and that the average female director’s salary lags behind that of the average male director – with overall disparities driven by mostly the largest museums. Click here.

Story Eight:  Australian Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says he does not believe in having quotas, describing the number of women in Parliament as a “side issue”.  He said: We’ve got formidable women at all levels of our parliamentary team. (There’s one woman in the Federal Ministry).

Story Nine: How women around the world are faring on wages, executive slots, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers. Click here.

Sadly I believe that for those who are concerned about these issues, we are having the same conversations today that we had back in the 1970s. In the late 1970s and eighties we thought just for a moment that the issues were being identified and that actions and changes were to follow.

Thanks to the internet, the conversations continue today. To be optimistic , once we get through this awful period of ultra conservatism, the world may get back to increasing democratic processes, including dealing with gender inequity in society.


Further Reading

Women and Australian CEO’s

Gender Pay Gap in Australia

The evidence is clear: firms do better with women on board

Workplace gender equality procurement principles

ACTU Equal Pay and Better Jobs for Women

Women in Crisis (USA) – a series from The Atlantic.


Paul Costigan, 8 March 2014.

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