Gender equality linked with women remains a contemporary issue in Australia. “The debate over gender roles is not about what men or women should or should not be doing- it’s about people having freedom of choice to act constructively in society, and to have their contribution to society respected and recognised.” (Linden, 1996) Even though Australia was one of the first countries that watch over women rights, now days it seems that they have stop searching for that equality, like if they frozen and other countries like Norway, Finland and Sweden have pass them in the development of female role in society.
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Australia, along with New Zealand, was highlighted as “leaders in closing the gender gap”. Based on the W.E.F’s benchmarking tool (2010), the Gender Gap Index (G.G.I.), Australia achieved a rank of 23, out of 115 countries. Perhaps unsurprisingly the Report has prompted considerable debate in Australia as to the status of women and, in particular, their economic well-being. Whilst many women have benefited from access to education and health, persistent barriers continue to hinder women’s economic opportunities and political empowerment within the Australian context. At a time when other countries are integrating gender into the policy development process and adopting programs to monitor women’s labour market outcomes Australia appears to be moving in the opposite direction. In Preston and Barns (2009) words, when compared to the 1970s and 1980s it is apparent that the climate within which gender equality is pursued today has significantly chilled.
More women are still working in “women area” jobs, such as teaching and nursing. Engineering and computering attracts 25% male student applications, and only 5% females (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006). Despite years of legislation and changing social attitudes, the opportunity for females to achieve at the highest levels of many professions and occupations seems to be very challenging. The gap between men and women earings has fallen over the years. Pay equitity is about providing equal remuneration for work of equal value. That means paying men and women equally for work that is of equal skill and responsibility, and is performed under comparable conditions. Ensuring that all workers have the same access to benefits, superannuation, allowances and other disectionary payments.
Women have to find their equal place in political life throughout the world. It was in 1893 that New Zeland became the first country in the world to legislate for the right for women to vote in free elections, Australia followed in 1902. It was until 1918 that the United States and Great Britain approved this legislation (Oldfield, 1992). Before these time women were not considered important enough or intelligent enough to exercise this power. It was felt that their husbands, fathers or brothers no matter how ignorant they were, had a much better understanding and ability to decide on issues of the date.
It was a long and hard battle for women to achieve this legislation, but when women from all areas of society united to demand their rights, law-makers could not deny it any more. With the vote came gradual recognition of women’s rights as full members of society. Legal protection was slow and unreliable to begin with, because the laws were debated and passed by men, who as a group were not necessarily interested in the injustice made to women. According to (Linden, 1996) custody of children in divorces became commonly awarded to women, and most unlikely to all, moves were made to ensure they would be paid the same amount as men for doing the same work; this particular point is still a big issue now days.
During the Second World War, women were required to take on jobs that were previously occupied by men. Women worked in factories and drove buses; and upon the men’s return from war, many women refused to relinquish this new found freedom Prit says (2008). In order to make women to go back to their housework and let the men to occupy their jobs wages for women went from 90 per cent of men rate to 75 per cent, a rate fixed in the 1950s by the Arbitration Court (Graig, Lewins, & White, 2003) arguing that men have a bigger responsibility with his children and wife so they should received a higher wage. Through this what the government wanted was to established the “Australian way of life” that is that women stay at home in the suburbs taking care of the children and cook while the man of the house go to work .
In the 1960s according to Prit (2008) was when feminist campaigns began to ask for equal pay, equal opportunities, anti-discrimination, child and maternity welfare, divorce laws and childcare. They also demanded freedom of choice for women, not only for education and employment, but for marriage, contraception and abortion. The Feminist Movement shocked many older, conservative women’s organizations, such as the Country Women’s Association.
The feminist movement continued to grow and in 1969 there was an important case The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union & Others v Meat and Allied Trades Federation of Australia & Others. Before this time women’s wages are set substantially lower than that of their male equivalent. The introduction of equal pay is prompted by a number of factors, including the ILO Convention on Equal Pay, increasing female employment, and the abolition of the Basic Wage in 1967. The 1969 decision grants “equal pay for equal work”, The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission rules, however, that equal pay is not applicable “where the work in question is essentially or usually performed by females but is work upon which male employees may also be employed”. By the time of the 1972 equal pay case, figures are produced to show that only 18 per cent of women workers have benefited as a result of the 1969 decision (Fair Work Australia, 2010).
As Australian society moved towards an acceptance of gender equality, it was important that political and legislative policies reflected that change. There have been legislations passed, such as the 1984 Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act, that have shaped equality for women. The Act came after Australia signed the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It says that it is illegal to discriminate people because of their sex, maritial status, pregnancy, sexual harassment, and family responsibilities (Equal Opportunity Commission, 2010).
The 1990s saw an increase in women holding high profile leadership positions, with Jennie George becoming the first woman to be appointed President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Carla Zampatti the first woman appointed as Chair of SBS (Australian Government, 2010). At the turn of the century, the ageing population dilemma and the need for skilled labour was high on political agendas, and is almost certainly one of the most powerful forces forging the way for Australian women now, with a new found focus on barriers to work for women; focusing on the need for appropriate childcare options in order to facilitate workforce participation, the concentration of policy in lowering effective tax rates for working women and the increased bounty of government payments for working families.
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A survey of the Inter-Parliamentarian Union in 1993 showed that women held just 10 per cent of the world’s parliamentary seats. What made this figure even more warring was that five years earlier it had been almost half again as high, at 14.6 per cent. The Australian Labour Party was the first Australian party to establish a quota for women. On 27 September 1994 it voted to commit at least 35 per cent of winnable seats to women by 2002. The business of how a candidate actually gets up is something that is rarely gone into in detail. Parties say that candidates should be committed, knowledgeable, and have voter appeal (Linden, 1996).
In the Forty-First Parliament of Australia (2004-2007) there were 23 female senators and 38 women in the House of Representatives. On 24 June 2010, Julia Gillard became the first woman to lead one of the major political parties at the federal level as Leader of the Australian Labor Party, as well as the first female Prime Minister of Australia (Australian Government, 2010).In politics matter, women have little by little gone further, they made the way up to the top. They have earned the respect of people and governments, and have proved that they can handle a “men’s job”.
But these equality seeking have some sacrifices, women are putting apart their other important role as mothers to grow as professionals. The report findings highlight the challenge for women to maintain a “work life balance” and it found that women are still doing the majority of the child rearing and housework. Women with children employed full-time spend on average 78 hours a week in paid and unpaid work while full-time men with children spend only 74 hours a week according to NATSEM University of Canberra (2009). The differences can be found in the amount of time men pitch in to help with the kids and housework. Full-time women with children spend 15 hours per week doing the cooking and cleaning compared with only six hours per week for men. For a part-time mother the reality is even harsher – a part-time woman averages 74 hours a week in paid and unpaid work, 23 hours are spent with the kids and 20 hours on the housework, while part-time men with children work 58 hours in paid and unpaid work, and 14 hours of that is spent with the kids and nine hours is dedicated to the housework (NATSEM University of Canberra, 2009).
So it’s little wonder really that the report made by NATSEM in 2009 found that half of employed women feel rushed or pressed for time compared with only a third of employed men. Not surprisingly women are choosing education and career and then “maybe baby”, which has seen an increase in the age of first time mothers to 29 . Fertility has declined considerably since the Baby Boomer generation; however, more recently there has been a slight improvement in total fertility – rising to 1.9 children in 2007 from 3.5 children per woman in the Baby Boomer generation. Regardless of the advances in equal opportunity in the workplace 22 per cent of pregnant working women said they faced a workplace difficulty in relation to their pregnancy and some said they had missed out on training, development and promotion. The report found that once the baby is born women are taking all the paid leave available to them and they are even resorting to taking unpaid leave. Results show that over half of professional women took paid maternity leave compared with just eight per cent of elementary clerical, sales and services workers. And 76 per cent of public sector women having babies took paid maternity leave, in contrast to 25 per cent of women in the private sector.
In conclusion, prior to the 1960s females only received 54 per cent the wages males earned. Although women are allowed to equal wages today, on average women only receive According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006), 84 per cent of what men earn . Women are less likely to be promoted, receive bonuses and not often expected to fulfill the requirements to be employed in a stereotypical male job.
The historical conflict about social differentiations and varying levels of power and authority between males and females has come to a point where co-operation between the two genders would be favorable. Equality of opportunity can be better achieved though support and focus on unity rather than differences.
Australia play a leading role in promoting women`s increase participation. There is still progress to be made to achieve equal outcomes and opportunities for men and women. Gender equality and the rights contained within legislation rely on the overall legal system, as well as cultural attitudes for execution and enforcement. However, gaps do exist in the treatment of legislation, and in the way by which it is enforced. Taking concrete action to advance human rights and support opportunity and choice require a combined effort across the entire of government, in addition to the important constant role of specialist human rights monitoring and complaints mechanisms.
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