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Monday, 4 December 2017
Page: 9543


Senator RICE (Victoria) (17:28): I wish to take note of the annual report of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency's vision is for women and men to be equally represented, valued and rewarded in the workplace, which is of great relevance and note given the wave of allegations about sexual harassment in Australian workplaces that we're currently in the throes of. Women cannot be equally valued and rewarded if they feel under threat of, or at risk of, sexual harassment. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency oversees the reporting of non-public sector employers with over 100 staff on how their progress with gender equality is going through reporting on six gender equality indicators. The results of this annual survey were recently released and showed some positive trends. Overall, the results reflected some significant gender inequalities. In particular, women were much more likely to be in part-time or casual work. There's still a big pay gap, but some progress is being made, with men still out-earning women by more than $26,000 a year on average, with the biggest pay gap in the trades sector with a pay gap of 26.7 per cent.

We're making some progress with regard to flexible working arrangements, but there's still considerable room for improvement when it comes to access to paid parental leave and recognition of the need to ensure that women and men can fulfil caring responsibilities. Our workplaces remain highly gender-segregated, both by role—where 74 per cent of the clerical and admin roles are filled by women; whereas only 12.4 per cent of technicians and trades employees are women—and by industry—where women make up 70 per cent of jobs in healthcare and social assistance organisations but only 12 per cent in construction organisations.

Where we are making only extremely slow progress relates to where power lies in organisations. Only 16 per cent of CEOs are women. Overall, only 38 per cent of managers are female. And there's been very little change in the gender balance of boardrooms: only 25 per cent of board members are women. As Libby Lyons, the director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, said in her foreword to the 2017 gender equality scorecard:

Men still dominate the faces around these top tables and the data suggests boards are not engaging with gender equality issues. As the guardians of organisational strategy, boards must step up if we are to continue building momentum for change.

This is what matters when it comes to addressing issues of sexual harassment and discrimination, which is one of the six indicators that the agency has set up. Although more employers have a formal policy or strategy to support employees who are experiencing family or domestic violence, the only measure that's being reported on that's related to workplace-based sexual harassment is whether the workplace has a gender equality strategy or policy. Over 70 per cent of organisations do. Yet we are clearly only now at the beginning of an avalanche of women reporting sexual harassment in the workplace. Clearly, we need to do a lot more than just have a policy relating to sexual harassment. In #MeToo and its torrent of stories, the exposure of alleged harassment and abuse of women by the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Don Burke have hit us all like a tsunami—and it's clear that these public stories are only the tip of the iceberg. Much more needs to be done to change the culture in workplaces.

A world without violence against women is possible. The work that's being done by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency is of value, but to achieve a world without violence against women, we need all to play our part. In particular, we all need to acknowledge that the breeding ground for this violence is gender inequality and power imbalance, and men abusing that power. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.