20 Nov

'Gender Equality - It Impacts Us All' Andrew Bath, Director, Project Resource Partners

The articles I have written, looking back over my rather meagre back catalogue, tend to have been written on gender equality, and usually published on International Women’s Day. The articles talk about the importance of balance, that we need to understand we all come from different perspectives and that there is a tendency, after all the publicity dies off, to revert to business as usual.

I wrote that my perspective, which is still the same is as a stereotypical male, with two boys, four brothers and lover of sport and a beer, mean my actions to improve balance can be more important. It highlighted that for me, it is important for us all to do something to ensure that we live in a world that is balanced, just and fair, and that opportunity is equitable.

Today interestingly is International Men’s Day, which I only found out about by accident. I didn’t think much about it when I did to be honest as I’m aware I’ve probably had a historical bias skewed my way! Ironically though on this day, I enjoyed lunch listening to WEGA's Libby Lyons and an outstanding panel discuss the results of Australia’s gender equality scorecard, 50 years after equal pay legislation came into effect.

The figures, whilst showing some improvement in certain areas, and in particular, the introduction of formal policies on family and domestic violence being put in place, are still not changing fast enough. There is a 20.8% gender pay gap or $25,679 per year, there are approximately 30% of boards who have no female representative, only 17.1% of CEOs are female etc. etc. All figures which should scare people as they say we are not achieving what we could be as teams, as companies and as a society.

I came back to the office with my mind working through what to make of those numbers. What causes them? What influences them? What can be done about them? How can we balance the imbalance and shift the dial? The different advocates who were speakers at the event , Martin Bean of RMIT, Michelle Dixon of Maddocks, Lisa Samuels of Hesta, Jad Vodopjia of BHP, moderated by Jaila Rizvi, all spoke of what their companies have done and are doing. The need for visibility, for values driven change and the need to understand that there are multiple factors and approaches that need to be taken. All were impressive, heart felt and interestingly, from a process point of view, simple. That is not to say easy.

My LinkedIn feed then reminded me that it is International Men’s Day, and listed statistics (something I’ve never been able to not read). I don’t know why, but they draw me in. Maybe it is because they are measurable and they are binary – you are either improving or you are not. They are black and white, good or bad. The statistics of this post though were static, so rather than tell a story, they painted a picture.

Each day in Australia, six men take their lives and 82 call an ambulance due to suicidal thoughts, prostate cancer kills more men than breast cancer kills women, two out of three homeless who sleep rough are men, 94% of work place fatalities are men, according to www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au in 2018, one in three domestic violence victims are men, men’s life expectancy is 4.4 years less than women and after separation, in 85% of cases, the children are removed from the day-to-day lives of the father.

These figures are every bit in need of change as those that I had listened to earlier. It is easy to be overwhelmed and to think there is so much to fix and not know where to start. What should we change first? Actually, it is all too hard! Then I thought of what the speakers from earlier in the day had said about visibility, values-based change across companies and society, and not walking past something that needs fixing.

The solutions, simplistically I agree, lie in part in the WGEA report and include having society and businesses support flexible work, where only 2.3% have targets set for men’s engagement. Access to parental leave, which has improved, needs to continue to improve. More diverse and inclusive decision-making groups will mean that better decisions are made that benefit all, while having more balanced care and early childhood sectors should mean better outcomes for societies most vulnerable.

These alone won’t fix the problem, but I think they show that equality and fairness is about us all. The lack of equality, balance and fairness impacts regardless of whether we are male or female, regardless of race or creed and regardless of our orientation.

Fairness and equality will come by us all doing what is right and what is fair, by ensuring that our staff, friends and family are able to live balanced lives in an inclusive world where differences are accepted and celebrated. By all striving to ensure that there is a balance regardless of whether we are the stereotype or the exception. By all having the resolve to make a difference and being accountable for making a difference.

By Andrew Bath, Director, 

Project Resource Partners

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