Supporting the independent education community

Get involved with International Women’s Day on 8 March

International Women’s Day is a day to challenge all Australian women and men to consider the legacy that will be passed onto future generations of women.  This year, the United Nations is asking the global community to #PressForProgress and be tenacious in accelerating gender equality and empowerment.

"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all – women and men - who care about human rights."

- Gloria Steinem world-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist.

The system is failing women
There is no doubt that the system is failing women in almost all aspects of their working lives.  
Gender inequalities are still deeply embedded in every society.  Women suffer from lack of access to decent work and face occupational segregation and gender wage gaps. 

In many countries, women are denied access to basic education and health care and are victims of violence and discrimination. They are under represented in political and economic decision making processes.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted  that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity.  However, the most recent Gender Gap Report ( 2017) highlights that a slowdown is being experienced in the already glacial pace of progress and that the global gender pay gap will not be closed until the year 2234. That is 216 years away.

The system is also failing Australian women and girls
Australian women and girls are not isolated from these trends.  Here are the facts:

•    Australian women account for 92% of primary carers for children with disabilities, 70% of primary carers for parents and 52% of primary carers for partners.  Such caregiving situations cause financial challenges through the loss of wages from reduced hours, part-time employment, time out of the workforce, family leave or early retirement.
•    The national full time gender pay gap is 15.3% and it has remained stuck between 5% and 19% for the past two decades.  This means that while women comprise roughly 46% of all employees in Australia, women’s full time earnings are $251.20 less per week than men.  
•    Average superannuation payments to women are just over half (53%) that of men with many women having little or no superannuation.
•    1 in 6 women have experienced violence at some time in their adult life.
•    One third of women (33%) have been sexually harassed since the age of 15, while a quarter of women (25%) aged 15 years and older have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
•    Women remain underrepresented in leadership roles in schools. Despite high proportion of women in education, women hold only 65.5% of primary leadership and 48.2 % of secondary leadership roles.  
•    Women remain significantly under represented in Australian parliament (32%).

Why is it taking so long?
With the plethora of gender equality and inclusion programs and projects across the world, how is it that we are slowing down our progress, when we should be speeding up.  

Research shows that the strongest forces behind persistent gender gaps are harmful social norms and stereotypes that limit expectations of what women can or should do.  These outdated norms discriminate against women in many situations and are deeply ingrained.

Since all areas of life relate to gender equality, efforts must be made to cut the roots of gender discrimination wherever they appear.

What can be done right now?
We must challenge the formal and informal structures which continue to prohibit gender equity.

We must challenge stereotypes and the perception of the 'ideal worker' which is held by many employers and governments.  Women, who bear the bulk of responsibilities for caring, simply do not fit into these false perceptions of the ideal worker.   The gender pay gap would be considerably reduced and could vanish altogether if workplaces did not disproportionately reward individuals who laboured long hours and worked full time employment

We must challenge sexist language and behaviour in all contexts as such attitudes only serve to reinforce gender inequality.

We must campaign for comprehensive legal and industrial change which protects and enhances the position of women. We need greater access to secure part time flexible work, to paid family and domestic violence leave and to stronger superannuation provisions which recognise the caregivers.

We must campaign for effective education of both men and women to raises awareness of the issues affecting women, particularly in regard to sexual harassment and violence.

Discussions in the workplace
It is important that both women and men do not shy away from discussing gender equality with employers and work colleagues. Sometimes, these discussions may make employers and colleagues uncomfortable as it requires a large shift to the way people are use to thinking.

But we can not make change, if we do not speak out.
On International Women’s Day, IEU members are asked to #PressforProgress.

It is crucial for IEU members to be involved in their union and collectively campaign for change to happen.  Women issues are Union issues.

IEU members are encouraged to:
•    Hold discussions in schools to educate colleagues on the need for progress.
•    Attend their Branch activities during the week of 5 March  (Specifics of IEU activities around the country are located on the relevant IEU websites).
•    Share your best #PressforProgress photograph with your IEU Branch to show your commitment to gender equality.

Now is the time to make our voice heard.  Together, IEU members can #PressforProgress

References (and more information):

2. Workplace Gender Equality Agency
3. Workplace Gender Equality Agency,, February 2018
5. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Personal Safety Survey 2012
6. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Personal Safety Survey 2012