10 things you need to know about women in Australia right now.

10 things you need to know about women in Australia right now.

Aside from a plethora of events this week, International Women’s Day this year has coincided with the release of a mountain of new research about women, the delivery of a few significant speeches, and a host of announcements.

In a bid to keep you informed – and keep ourselves up to date – we have compiled a list of ten key takeaways from IWD 2018.

Sexual harassment is rife.

On Tuesday the University of Sydney released the Women and the Future of Work study which revealed the gaps and traps between young working women’s aspirations and their current working realities. The team of researchers from the University of Sydney’s Women, Work & Leadership Research Group, surveyed more than 2000 working women aged 16 to 40, who were representative of the workforce nationally.

Among the many alarming findings was the fact that one in 10 young Australian women are currently experiencing sexual harassment. As in, right now. As I type.

May it be a dire warning that despite starting an important conversation #MeToo is yet to deliver any substantive improvement for women in workplaces. It also makes clear that this tired problem is not firmly in the past where it belongs: it is continuing to flourish to the detriment of young women.

One of the co-authors of the report, Dr Elizabeth Hill says leadership is required. “We are urgently calling on the government to facilitate and implement a public policy framework that supports young women’s career aspirations. We need to work towards a future where women are valued in the workplace and for their work.”

Boosting confidence won’t help women at work.

New research from RMIT shows that while confidence helps men get ahead it makes little difference for women.

While having a confident personality boosts men’s chances of job promotion by 3.3%, women gain no sizeable benefit. The study is the largest of its kind in Australia, examining the promotion prospects and confidence levels of more than 7500 working men and women across the country.

Economic researcher Dr Leonora Risse said the findings challenge the prevailing assumption that the best way to improve gender equality in the workplace is to encourage women to become more assertive, suggesting that popular approaches like the “lean in” movement championed by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg could be misguided.

“Confidence is a factor in success at work, and we see that, on average, women are less confident than men in putting themselves forward for a challenge,” Risse said. “So it seems logical that, to achieve gender equality, we should encourage women to ‘lean in’ and develop the confidence to go for more challenging roles and job promotions. But our analysis shows it’s not that simple. Greater confidence does not translate into career gains, on the whole, for women.

Rather than push for behavioural change among women, workplaces should instead check for gender biases in how they value their workers’ attributes to ensure they don’t reward charisma over competence.

It is further proof of the inspired, lucid and compelling argument Catherine Fox mounts in her aptly-titled book: Stop Fixing Women. Indeed.

The funding gap remains huge.

Male entrepreneurs are more than twice as likely as their female counterparts to raise more than $100K in outside funding. This was one of the results from an international survey of more than 3,000 entrepreneurs aimed at uncovering gender differences (and similarities) between male and female business owners around the world that 99designs undertook.

28% of the men polled raised at least $100K or more to start their business, as compared to just 15% of the women. These numbers show little change from the results of last year’s survey showing a gap of 12% vs. 6%, respectively.

Despite the gap in funding, however, there are more similarities than differences between men and women when it comes to entrepreneurship. Male and female respondents gave nearly identical answers across the board to questions about their experiences as and attitudes toward entrepreneurship, including that ‘not asking for help’ has been their biggest mistake.

Some differences include:

◦ Women are much more likely to operate home-based businesses and sole proprietorships than men
◦ Women are more likely to put in a “second shift” of work at night.

It is possible to close the gender pay gap. Overnight.

Energy Australia chose IWD18 as the day to announce it will spend $1.2 million to close the gender pay gap in its workforce.

“It’s not right or fair to expect women to have to wait any longer for the pay gap to close,” Managing Director Catherine Tanna said. “So, we’re fixing that right now. ‘Right now’ means that about 350 women at EnergyAustralia will have a pay increase and, in most of these cases, an additional one-off adjustment of about $3,500. About 80 men will also have their pay increased.

In so doing Energy Australia proves that the pay gap is not an immoveable fixture in workplaces: rather it is an unacceptable state of affairs that can be readily rectified. Energy Australia also sets a precedent that any company wanting to attract and retain female talent would do well to follow. It might even attract a host of new customers and investors who are willing to put their money where their values are.

If you are a leader who wants to follow Energy Australia’s lead A Human Agency has offered some terrifically practical advice here to identify, analyse and track the gender pay gap. (Perhaps you could send it to your boss, board, CEO?)

Women are just as interested in leadership as men.

A study released by SEEK proves the argument that women aren’t interested in leadership is a folly. The desire to take on leadership roles is comparable across genders with 50% of men and 48% of women wanting to pursue a leadership role in the future. Over 65 per cent of Australia’s workforce would like to see more women in leadership roles…which does make me wonder about the other 35% but at least they’re honest.

But… Women are worried having a family will stall their career.

Almost half of the professional Australian women responding to a new PwC survey are nervous about the impact starting a family might have on their career and 42 percent of new mothers feel overlooked for promotions and special projects upon their return to work.

The PwC survey of over 3,600 professional women aged 28-40 around the world, including 247 professional women in Australia at manager level or above, also showed that 66% of women are actively seeking career advancement opportunities and 38% say taking advantage of work/life balance flexibility programs has negative consequences at their organisation.

“There is still a perception in Australia that taking up flexible work options will be seen as career limiting,” PwC Australia Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Julie McKay said. “Despite more awareness about flexible work leading to significant productivity gains, we have not shifted work culture to enable the benefits to be realised.”

Gender-balanced management teams perform better on key business objectives.

A five-year, one-of-a-kind study of 70 entities across different functions represents 50,000 managers worldwide by Sodexo, shows that teams managed by a balanced mix of men and women are more successful across a range of measurements. Operating margins, client satisfaction and employee retention, among other key performance indicators, were all higher among gender-balanced teams, meaning a ratio between 40% – 60% women to men.

“These results add a new, compelling dimension to a growing body of research that demonstrates the business benefits of gender equity,” Sue Black, Sodexo Global HR Director, Energy and Resources, said. “The distinctive nature of the study, with its examination of both financial and non-financial performance indicators across so many levels of management and the pipeline to leadership, is a significant piece of the overall picture on importance of gender in the workforce for enhanced outcomes.”

Parents are keen to challenge gender stereotypes.

A national survey conducted by Our Watch, asked 858 parents of children aged under three, what they thought about gender equality and violence against women, how they divided key household tasks and childrearing responsibilities within their family, and whether they believe that gender has an impact on their children. The report, Challenging gender stereotypes in the early years: the power of parents, shows that 92% of parents believe girls and boys should be treated the same in the early years. Further, 79% of parents want to take action to challenge traditional gender stereotypes.

The tricky aspect is being more aware of how we unintentionally and subtly reinforce gender stereotypes. Because research shows that even when parents believe that children should be treated equally, they may act or communicate in ways that inadvertently contradict this belief. Literature shows that fathers tend to be more likely than mothers to want to uphold ‘traditional’ gender stereotypes, including by treating girls and boys differently. This survey affirms that finding, showing that fathers are less likely to feel comfortable with the idea of their sons playing with dolls, or crying when sad, compared to mothers.

Our Watch has launched a media campaign #Becausewhy to help parents challenge limiting gender stereotypes.

There is a competition of ideas about women and gender equality.

This week Kelly O’Dwyer and Tanya Plibersek both stood up in the National Press Club and delivered wide-ranging, substantive speeches on the subject of women and gender equality.

The Labor party have released a strategy for achieving gender equality and O’Dwyer has flagged that the budget will contain measures to address the issue. Could this be the beginning of a genuine and meaningful debate about the policies that are required to close the gender gap? Bring it on. For too long this subject has languished on the periphery, enjoying the occasional moment in the sun on IWD day and few other select dates. Not anymore. How we can tackle gender equality goes to the heart of how Australia can thrive and prosper and it cannot be ignored. It is time, overdue in fact, for the physical and economic security of women to be front and centre in Australian politics.

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