Friday, 08 March 2013 11:22

Equality for women: still a work in progress

International Women's Day is a day for celebration and a call to action for both men and women. Because equality is not just a "women's issue" – things that are good for women also benefit the whole community.

While there have been some positive changes in the 100 years since the first International Women's Day, there is still a long way to go to achieve genuine equality, with groups of women in our community continuing to experience significant and entrenched disadvantage.

Victorian women, on average, will retire from the paid workforce with half as much retirement savings as men, due to being paid lower wages for years and the loss of superannuation and entitlements during child rearing years.

Despite three decades of equal opportunity legislation, there remains a significant lack of women in management roles and women with caring responsibilities still face entrenched barriers preventing their continued participation in the workplace.

Entrenched disadvantage plays out in many ways. We know that any economic penalty that women feel is generally felt by their children and families. There is no doubt that discrimination and disadvantage go hand in hand. If we look at the multiple barriers faced by women with disability, Indigenous women, single mothers, women from culturally diverse backgrounds and older women, a very clear and disturbing pattern emerges.

They are more likely to be poorer, more likely to be denied a decent start in life or dignified senior years, and are more likely to face entrenched attitudes and systemic barriers that limit your potential.

And no-one can deny the enduring challenge we face in ending violence against women. Violence against women cuts across our society, affecting women from all cultural, socio-economics and religious backgrounds, and impedes the right of women to fully participate in society.

It undermines women's access to employment, housing, health, education and has a life-long impact on children and families. Today, as we celebrate International Women's Day I think we can all agree that now is not the time to become complacent. Every one of us benefits from living in a fairer, more just and more equal society.

Last year on International Women's Day the Commission launched its' research into the experiences of women in the law, the report can be accessed here:
That report (humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/index.php/our-projects-a-initiatives/women-in-the-law) released in December showed that even in highly skilled professions like the law women still experience discrimination - they are paid less, get promoted less and often leave the profession as a result.

Today we are releasing a new guideline on preventing sexual harassment to help employers eradicate sexual harassment from our workplaces.
They can be accessed here:
humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/home/our-resources-and-publications/eoa-practice-guidelines/item/562-guideline-sexual-harassment-complying-with-the-equal-opportunity-act-2010

Karen Toohey, Acting Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner

 

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