Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has warned that a continuation of the work from home model could put women’s careers at risk in the long term.
Gillard shared her concerns on Wednesday, as she moderated a panel discussion hosted by the ANU’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership.
She said that while the increased flexibility that comes with remote working is great for many employees, it has the potential to leave women invisible in their workplace and could see them missing out on promotions and mentorship.
“We know domestic and caring labour are not equitably distributed,” Gillard said at the event. “If nothing else changes in five years’ time, what we’ll see is that women — particularly women in the family formation stage — have chosen disproportionately to work at home and men have been much more regular attenders of the office.”
“And if nothing else changes that will show in who is being considered for a promotion, who is being considered for sponsorship and mentorship, and who is being put on the best training opportunities.”
Gillard said many women were shouldering more of the domestic labour in families while working from home, which also leaves them “invisible behind a screen”.
Other speakers on the panel on Wednesday included Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency Mary Wooldridge, Commissioner for Gender Equality in the Public Sector Dr Niki Vincent, KPMG partner Dr Jane Gunn, and Non-Executive Director at Future Super Geraldine Chin Moody.
Gillard and Wooldridge also spoke about other issues relating to gender equality in the workplace, including how requiring private companies to publish gender pay gap data can help improve pay outcomes for women. Wooldridge also noted that WGEA is looking towards collecting cultural diversity data.
Gillard took the opportunity to congratulate new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the swearing in of his new cabinet, which boasts a record of 10 women.
During the election campaign, Gillard threw her support behind the Labor Party, and specifically backed ACT Senator Katy Gallagher for re-election. Gallagher is now one of the 10 women in the new cabinet and was sworn in on Wednesday as Finance Minister, Minister for Women and Minister for the Public Service.