Isn’t it wonderful that the bearer of the country’s highest office believes the status of women is so important that he needs to personally take on the responsibility for progress and change? Isn’t that the obvious take-out message from our new PM’s self-appointment?
Tony Abbott made it clear during the election that Team Abbott would be a government that offers real change. So with that in mind it’s important we remind him – constantly – of the changes we would like to see him deliver as Minister for Women.
- That he will fight for equality of women in every facet of life. In the home, on the streets, in the workplace and in the boardroom, all women should feel safe, confident and empowered all at the time.
- That he will develop a plan to correct the injustice of pay inequality, on the basis of gender, that results from a working environment with fewer opportunities for women at the top. Many men are paid more than women because employers place a greater value on them. Their value is in large part a perception of their future value to the organisation. When women are seen to have the potential to run the company some day they too will be valued for their future worth and paid accordingly. Employers need to be actively encouraged to alter their thinking. I have no doubt that Tony Abbott can do this, especially given how close he is to big business.
- That he will address the childcare situation for all women. One of the main reasons women’s careers come to a grinding halt once they become parents is that there is a severe lack of affordable childcare right across the country. My sons were in long-day childcare two days per week. The fees for the two days were more expensive than an eastern suburbs private preparatory school for five days. Affordable and accessible childcare includes after-school care. Unless all companies in every industry suddenly adopt the notion of flexible work so that parents (often mothers) can collect their children from school mid-afternoon every day, how on earth can their careers continue?
- That he will encourage organisations to think outside the square on flexible work by incentivizing companies to address this. I have a friend who has an engineering degree and an MBA but had to take a job as a casual TAFE teacher when her children started school due to the lack of flexibility with the working hours of her executive job at an ASX-100 organisation. That’s one less talented woman lining up to be a future CEO.
- That he will work with women to find viable means to increase the financial independence of all women, but especially those most vulnerable. No woman should have to put up with an untenable or dangerous living situation because she has no other option.
- That he will protect a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body and health. And that means our right to wear what we like, when we like. It also means our right to contraception and abortion. No must always mean no. And no woman is ever responsible for any form of violence towards her, regardless of what she says or does.
- That he will implement the paid parental leave scheme he touted during the election campaign as his platform for winning over women. It’s the only female-friendly tool in his kitbag and undoubtedly it convinced some future parents to vote for him. So delivering on this would be a great starting point.