Friday, 26 October 2018 10:57

Making gender equality real in Victoria

For more than 40 years the Commission has been helping Victorian employers and employees strive towards more inclusive workplaces where the contributions of women and men are valued and recognised equally.

In that time much has changed but real and enduring equality is yet to be embedded across all workplaces.

The Victorian Government is proposing a new law that will make public bodies more accountable for promoting gender equality in the workplace. Under the proposal there are specific actions that public bodies have to comply with.

This is a positive step and the Commission is pleased to contribute to the proposed draft bill with our submission.

Our ideas for strengthening the proposed new law

To help us achieve our vision we’ve made some recommendations to the proposed law, which have been formed by our extensive experience in this area.

The Commission resolves complaints, conducts research, and provides tailored education and support in the development of equal opportunity, human rights and diversity and inclusion action plans.

We also provide information and advice and intervene in court proceedings related to sex discrimination, sexual harassment and gender inequality.

Some of our key recommendations: 

  • Clarify that the term 'gender' includes men and women, covers people who identify as trans and are intersex, and captures intersectional experiences of gender equality.
  • Strengthen the objectives by aligning them more closely with other laws such as the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic), the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth) and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).
  • Fund the development and delivery of tailored education, consultancy and guidance materials to support public bodies to develop Gender Equality Action Plans.
  • Create a list of minimum standards that public bodies must address in their Gender Equality Action Plans.
  • Clarify targets and indicators and expand to capture additional areas where gender inequality occurs in the workplace. 
  • Consult with gender equality stakeholders, and consider their recommendations, before outlining targets and indicators.
  • Appoint and resource the Commission to be the independent body to oversee the implementation of the new law because of our expertise and unique role
  • Make sure the independent body can:
    • provide independent support, guidance, resources and advice
    • review Gender Equality Action Plans and any related reports or analysis
    • maintain a public register of Gender Equality Action Plans and related reports
    • request further information to assist it in reviewing compliance with the legislation
    • offer targeted support and advice to non-compliant public bodies to help them comply
    • submit a report to the Minister with the names of non-compliant defined entities, including the details of non-compliance and the steps the entity proposes to take to address non-compliance
    • publish the names of non-compliant entities in its own report or on its website
    • report to the Minister on the overall implementation of the legislation and progress towards gender equality in Victoria.
  • In order to complement and strengthen the gender equality legislation, we suggest that consideration should be given to reinstating the Commission’s previous functions under the Equal Opportunity Act, in relation to the threshold requirements of the investigative function, public inquiries and compliance powers.

Download a copy of our submission

Why do we need a new law to promote gender equality?

In Victoria equality is protected under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. There are also federal laws that protect the right to equality to some extent.

Despite these important protections, gender inequality still exists.

Although women make up nearly half (47 per cent) of the workforce they are often still worse paid than men, in part-time jobs or in the huge informal employment sector with little protection and few rights.

As a result, many women are unable to participate fully in society.

We know that specific laws that establish equal rights help achieve gender equality in practice.

Laws influence policy shifts, social norms, attitudes and expectations. They improve gender equality by making public institutions accountable.

Several countries already have these laws in place and they are ahead of Australia on the 2017 Gender Pay Gap Index. Australia is now ranked 35th out of 144 countries. 

The top 10 countries were Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda, Sweden, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Ireland, New Zealand and the Philippines.

The ways the proposed new law will address the barriers that prevent gender equality in Victorian workplaces are by:

  • making public sector organisations actively do something about creating gender equality in the workplace, rather than allowing it to occur and responding when it does
  • setting targets for women in leadership – women are approximately half of the Victorian population, the public organisations that represent them should reflect that make up
  • requiring organisations to report on progress towards a future state of gender equality – and calling them out when they don’t comply
  • strengthening existing legal protections of the right to equality.

Gender equality in the workplace

We have a vision for how workplaces would look if gender equality was embedded across the board:

  • Workplaces reflect the gender demographics of the community.
  • There is equal pay for work of equal value between men and women.
  • There are gender balanced teams at every level, including leadership.
  • There is a workplace culture of flexibility.
  • There is zero tolerance for sex discrimination and harassment.
  • Workplace leaders are committed to achieving gender equality.
  • Workplaces are held accountable for their progress toward gender equality.

Getting closer to gender equality requires a change in thinking, behaviour, culture and a change in our laws.

The Commission supports laws that reflect the importance of gender equality.

Read our submission on the proposed Gender Equality Bill and how it can be strengthened

Our work on gender equality

The Commission’s four strategic priorities are: embedding a human rights culture, improving workplace equality, protecting human rights in closed environments and reducing racism.

These priorities drive our vision for a fair, safe and inclusive Victoria.

In the area of improving workplace equality, we have committed to:

  • contributing to Victorian Government initiatives and committees designed to prevent and respond to gender inequality
  • partnering with employers through our education and consultancy service to identify the drivers for workplace inequality and implement structural and cultural changes to increase equality and diversity
  • providing victims of sex discrimination and sexual harassment with a confidential, accessible and effective conciliation process to resolve complaints
  • continuing our landmark independent review work into the nature, prevalence and impact of discrimination and sexual harassment in key sectors.

We have identified the workplace as an important setting to address sex discrimination and sexual harassment, and promote gender equality. However, our work covers all areas of public life, such as the provision of goods and services, education, sport and the provision of accommodation.

We also seek to address gender inequality through our work to realise our three remaining strategic priorities.

Examples of our work on gender equality

Contact the Commission

If you think you have been discriminated againstsexually harassedvictimised or vilified, contact us and talk about your concerns.

Our dispute resolution service is free and confidential. We can send you information about the complaint process and if we can’t help you we will try to refer you to someone who can.

To make a complaint:

Find out more about making a complaint.

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