Australia’s government leaders have been celebrating International Women’s Day with reflections on progress that’s been made, what remains to be done and their own personal experiences.
Minister for Women Michaelia Cash told a pre-women’s day breakfast hosted by IPAA ACT, also featuring chief of army Angus Campbell, that “when it comes to gender equality, in particular in the public service, Australia has a fantastic story to tell.”
But, she noted, “we have to do more.”
“Whilst yes we are making progress, and progress is a great thing, we are not there yet. But what we do have is an acknowledgement, not just by policy makers, not just by the public service, but by society that we need to do more to ensure gender equality across the workplace.”
When speaking to people around Australia in both the public and private sectors, Cash said many told her flexibility was a big problem. “Unless you can give us flexibility, or the employer can give us flexibility in the workplace, we’re still having to make choices that we have to make, as opposed to choices that we want to make that suit our families’ particular circumstances,” is the typical response, she explained.
Gender roles continue to result in an imbalance in caring and career divides, she said. “Currently 60% of families with kids have a full time working dad and part time or stay at home mum. Reverse the situation and the statistic drops to just 3%.” This means that “for the majority of men, having children barely changes their pattern of work and career trajectory, if at all,” she noted.
Cash recounted a small but poignant experience. While holding the bags of an older male MP as he ran downstairs at the airport to retrieve his forgotten phone, a woman said to Cash that it must be exciting to be the personal assistant of a high profile parliamentarian.
“I said I’m Michaelia Cash — she said ‘Michaelia, I can’t believe I’ve just done that, I’m the chief engineer on site, they do it to me every day of the week.”