Gender equality at work

Here’s the EOWA media release on the new legislation passed yesterday:

“The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012, passed by federal parliament last night (22 November) is a landmark development on the journey to gender equality in Australian workplaces.

The Act is a significant advance on its predecessor, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999, shifting the focus from equal opportunity for women to gender equality, which is more contemporary and relevant. The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency will be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reflecting this change in focus.

Helen Conway, Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency says “the changes will increase Australia’s productivity and improve business performance by empowering organisations to harness all of the nation’s talent.”

Under the Act, non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees will report on actual gender equality outcomes, and provide the Workplace Gender Equality Agency with standardised data.

“This data will put Australia at the international cutting edge for analysing progress on workplace gender equality. The Agency will use the data to set industry-specific benchmarks. Employers will be able to compare their performance with others in their industry and we’ll work with organisations to develop strategies to improve their performance,” Ms Conway says.

“These benchmarks will also help organisations set voluntary targets on gender equality – something I strongly encourage. As with any business initiative, the best way to drive change is to set clear objectives and reward managers for achieving them.”

The legislation also focuses on eliminating discrimination on the grounds of gender in relation to family and caring responsibilities.

“The Act recognises that the days when women did all the caring and men were the sole breadwinners are long gone. It’s time workplace practices caught up with the way we live today,” Ms Conway says.

2013 will be a transitional year giving employers time to prepare for the new reporting arrangements that will be fully operational from 2014.

“There is a strong business case for gender equality but we recognise that many organisations struggle to achieve it. We are absolutely committed to working collaboratively with employers to help them bring gender equality to their workplaces,” Ms Conway says.

“The Act will enable our Agency to measure how far Australian employers have come but, more importantly, determine where there is more work to be done and where the Workplace Gender Equality Agency can help.””