International Women’s Day – some things to celebrate but more work to do

It is International Women’s Day again and surveying the scene here in Australia for women I find much to celebrate. Yet there remains much work to do for the women of Australia.

Here we see, for the first time, a crop of women in senior political leadership positions.

Quentin Bryce – Governor General
Marie Bashir – Governor of NSW
Penelope Wensley – Governor of QLD

Julia Gillard – Prime Minister
Nicola Roxon – Federal Minister for Health and Ageing
Jenny Macklin – Federal Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Penny Wong – Federal Minister for Finance and Deregulation
Julie Bishop – Deputy Leader Federal Opposition
Christine Milne – Deputy Leader Federal Greens
UPDATE: Kate Ellis, Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare and Minister for the Status of Women (thanks to Tom Voirol)

Anna Bligh – Premier of Queensland
Kristina Kenneally – Premier of New South Wales
Lara Giddings – Premier of Tasmania

I’m sure I’ve missed some of the women in politics – do please let me know of any additions  to the lists.

It was interesting to note that all states except South Australia have had a female Premier and that these female Premiers were all from the Australian Labor Party:

  • Carmen Lawrence, Premier of Western Australia (12 February 1990 – 16 February 1993)
  • Joan Kirner, Premier of Victoria (10 August 1990 – 6 October 1992)
  • Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland since 13 September 2007
  • Kristina Keneally, Premier of New South Wales since 4 December 2009
  • Lara Giddings, Premier of Tasmania since 24 January 2011.

But when we turn our attention to the corporate world in Australia there is a real dearth of women at the helm. Of course, there’s Gail Kelly at Westpac – but which other women are running large public companies in Australia? As the Business Council of Australia noted recently:

“Currently only 10.7 per cent of senior executive positions are held by women and just 2 per cent of CEO roles. Women chair 2 per cent of ASX 200 companies and hold just 8.3 per cent of board directorships.”

It makes me think it might be time for board quotas for women. We’ve been asking nicely for a long time, and if women were going to get board appointments on merit it would be more prevalent by now.

Then there is the sad state of affairs with women’s financial independence. This coupled with continuing pay inequity that is experienced by many women means that women are entering retirement with substantially less savings than their male peers.

The paid maternity leave scheme that was introduced by the current government is a huge step forward for women and equitable financial treatment.

Also it remains a matter of grave concern that the level of domestic violence against women remains stubbornly high. As noted in a Crikey article in 2010:

“It’s simple; domestic abuse and sexual assault against women are community issues impacting our wives and partners, mothers, daughters, friends – everyone.

One in three women over their life times will be physically assaulted. One in five will be sexually assaulted. The cost of domestic violence to the Australian economy was $13.6 billion in 2009.”

The report card for women in Australia is along the lines of:

A good effort so far; but more hard work is needed.

It’s time for women to reclaim the word feminist and continue the good fight. There remains much work to do.

Gender parity in Australia

Bain & Company have just released a brief titled “Level the playing field: A call for action on gender parity in Australia”.

The key findings are:

  • Australian men are 1.4 times more likely to believe that gender parity should be a strategic priority than men surveyed in the US and Europe
  • 9 in 10 women and 7 in 10 men believe that gender parity should be a strategic business imperative for their company
  • However, this strong belief has not translated through to a perception that women have equal opportunity to be selected for senior leadership positions
  • Only 1 in 5 women and 1 in 2 men believe that women have equal opportunity to be promoted to senior management positions

In their brief Bain & Company (opens PDF) argue that companies can take three measures to close the gap – and create a stronger talent pipeline:

  1. show a real commitment to gender parity
  2. lower the cultural barriers
  3. have a persistent approach to change management

This is all very well and nicely aspirational. But what are we to make of it, when (as apparently happened recently in Sydney at a women in business event) the male CEO of a large Australian organisation notes that, women do better in the Public Service because they have family friendly work hours and private industry does not.

There is some serious old-fashioned 1970s style consciousness raising that needs to go on at executive and board levels in this country. Surely nobody wants their own daughters and granddaughters to suffer inequitable access in business?

Women: The State of Play via APESMA #equalpayday

1_H8-1-CoyfHGyd-GJfoJcOg@2xAPESMA 2009-10 Women in the Professions Survey Report has just been released and it contains some sobering reading about how women are still treated unfairly and inequitably in the workplace.

As noted on the APESMA site:

  • Nearly 70% of respondents said that taking maternity/parental leave – including unpaid leave – was likely to be detrimental to their career, despite legally having access to these provisions.
  • Disturbingly, nearly 40% of respondents stated that they had been bullied and 38% discriminated against in the course of their employment. Nearly 20% reported that they had been sexually harassed, although only one fifth of those had reported the incident through official channels. Reports of sexual harassment and discrimination were higher in male-dominated industries.
  • 47.4% of respondents said that their career progression had been affected by workplace culture.
  • And nearly one quarter of respondents expected that they would leave their profession within five years.

The real question is what we are going to do about this. So many women seem to believe that the fight for equal pay and fair treatment at work is over.

But is not over. And each of us needs to decide what action we will take to make the workplace a better, safer and fairer place for the women who come along after us.

Equal Pay Day is 4 September 2010 – why not start with that?

Who else is interested in the future?

Here’s a short video with another person I met at the Future Summit 09 in Melbourne. This is Alex Jones, who is Chairman of the Deafness Forum of Australia, he’s talking to us in Auslan (Australian Sign Language). Alex raises the really important issue of access for all. After all, what’s a great future if we call can’t share in it?

What he’s saying is:

“Hi, I’m Alex Jones – chairman of the Deafness Forum of Australia. This organisation is the peak body for the deafness sector. We advocate and lobby for the rights of Deaf, hearing impaired, Deafblind people – to improve their lives in Australia. I’m here at the summit to contribute a huge factor on ‘access issues’ across all areas of the megatrends raised in this Summit. Access for all is the reason I’m here. Cheerios.”

IWD: International Women’s Day & the IT industry

What a surprise- another year of women complaining that there are not enough women in the IT industry! We get the token female CEO or CIO to talk at our IWD lunches & we all shake our heads in horror that there are not more women in the industry.

Why aren’t there more women in the IT industry?

Perhaps because to get a start you have to do an IT or computer science degree with a bunch of pointy headed male nerds? (Now that I’ve spent a significant number of years at work with nerds I’m glad I spent my undergrad days with a bunch of male philosophers instead.)

Perhaps because most entry level IT jobs have terrible hours and a lot of weekend work? When was the last time we did a code drop or network upgrade during daylight hours on a weekday?

Perhaps because men still do not think women can do hands on techie stuff or use tools? And this in spite of many of having our own power tools these days (I’ve got a really good set of powered and non powered tools & my male partner is not allowed near them).

Perhaps because women still do not think that they are capable of doing technical things? Come on Moms, when did you last encourage your daughter to pull her computer apart?

Perhaps because in many ways it is a grungy job? How many girls want to crawl around and play with hardware when they could dress up nicely and wear high heels. Let’s face it, after 12+ years of school clothes most girls want a nice dress, some makeup & a nice pair of shoes to wear to work – not jeans and a screwdriver.

I don’t know why there are so few women in IT. But here are a few reasons I am still working in IT:

  1. I am not very sensitive, tend to ignore other people and just do what I want – so even when people tried to deflect me from working in IT I just ignored them.
  2. I know how men think and act because 4 out of 5 children in my family had penises (this helps if you have to work with men – which many of us do).
  3. I like playing with technology and am not afraid of either software or hardware. My personal observation in the workplace is that many men will give things a go while women hang back waiting for an invitation. Not many women were building web pages for the heck of it like the guys in the IT department when the web came in.
  4. I take a lot of initiative and make myself useful – it is harder for people to get rid of good performers of any gender.

Some researchers attribute the low rates of female participation in IT to women unfriendly workplaces. Face up to it, workplaces are not just women unfriendly they are PEOPLE unfriendly. If women do not want to participate in the work then they cannot change the workplaces from outside. More women have to want to work in IT, if women do not want to do this work then they will vote with their feet. Just like they are doing now. I’m just not sure how we can change this.