Australian businesses could soon find themselves obligated to set gender equality targets, following a ground breaking recommendation made to the government in the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce’s final report.
This report, which underscores the need for significant changes in workplace dynamics to support women’s economic participation, suggests increased compliance measures for companies are highly likely as will be the establishment of further national advisory boards to assist with the rollout of a National Gender Equality Strategy – which is in development.
The hope is that by working towards gender equality, that Australia can benefit from a $128 billion boost to gross domestic product, according to data crunched by Deloitte Access Economics.
A Path Toward Gender Equality for companies
The future of workplace dynamics in Australia could be poised for a significant transformation as the Taskforce’s report called on the Government to “utilise its legislative, regulatory and spending powers to ensure all Australian workplaces create safe, secure, flexible and equitable work opportunities that support women’s economic participation.
Among the recommendations were calls to:
- Implement all the Respect@Work and Set the Standard Report recommendations and monitor their impact in proactively facilitating safe workplaces for Australian women.
- Encourage employers to set gender equality targets and strengthen the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reporting obligations to include meaningful benchmarks against which to measure progress towards gender equality year-on-year.
- Develop an inclusive procurement policy that prioritises awarding contracts to businesses that demonstrate positive action in gender equality, pay equity, and diversity, equity and inclusion. This could include setting targets for the number of women employed/engaged through government-issued contracts, particularly for services in male dominated industries.
No clear targets for government
Where the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce’s final report fell short was in recommending that gender equality targets be set by government itself.
This could have been done similar to that seen with the national Climate Change agenda, where there is a national target of net zero emissions by 2050. This was a missed opportunity in our view.
Big ticket items
The Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce’s final report also presented a number of well know initiatives, some controversial and some which the federal government has already indicated it would support.
- Universal, high-quality and affordable early childhood education and care.
- Abolish the Child Care Subsidy Activity Test.
- Raise the wages and improve the job quality of early childhood educators.
- Legislate the payment of superannuation on all forms of paid parental leave.
- Extend the Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme by phasing the entitlement up to 52 weeks and boosting the quantum of payments to reach a replacement wage and ensure the scheme incentivises men’s use of PPL.
- Require banks and financial services to continue to develop financial products and services specifically for the needs of women across their life course, that are free or very low-cost.
- Ensure financial literacy programs are part of the curriculum for all high school students.
- Review the taxation and transfer systems with a gender lens to identify negative gender biases and examine options to address the high Effective Marginal Tax Rates (EMTRs) experienced by women.
Creating Safe, Secure, and Equitable Work Opportunities
Without question, the report underscores the importance of creating safe, secure, flexible, and equitable work opportunities that support women’s economic participation. Overall, the report is a fantastic step forward for women and gender equality.
It highlights the alarming issue of workplace harassment and discrimination, which not only impacts the well-being and career progression of women but also incurs significant costs to the Australian economy.
A Deloitte Access Economics study estimated that workplace sexual harassment cost the Australian economy approximately $3.8 billion in 2018. Each case of harassment represented around four working days of lost output, underscoring the financial toll of gender-based workplace discrimination.
The report also points out the alarming prevalence of workplace harassment and bullying in Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces, indicating that over half of the individuals interviewed had experienced such incidents. These findings highlight the pressing need for a comprehensive approach to addressing gender inequality in the workplace.
Financy covers gender finance, diversity, inclusion and ESG issues. We advocate for gender equity change through the Women’s Index report and help businesses take action on DEI through tech solutions like IMPACTER.