Flexibility No Key to Gender Equality - Debate
18 November 2013 at 9:59 am
Flexible working is not the key to gender equality in the workplace, an audience was told at the Diversity Council Australia’s Annual Diversity Debate in Sydney.
The event, hosted by Westpac, included an audience of 160 CEOs, HR directors and managers and a panel of business leaders, academics and commentators who debated whether flexible working was the key to gender equality. The debate was strongly in favour of the negative team by 68 per cent to 32 per cent.
A survey at the debate also revealed that more than half of participants (60 per cent) said getting more women into leadership positions was their organisation’s highest priority for gender equality.
A key argument in support of the winning team was that flexibility is not the silver bullet for gender equality and that real change would require much more than just access to flexible working.
“Audience feedback shows gender equality and flexible working are top of mind for business leaders. Both sides agreed that employers can’t afford to ignore flexible working as a pathway to gender equality,” DCA Chief Executive Officer Nareen Young said.
Some of the other important factors include addressing gender pay equity and sex-based harassment and discrimination.
During the debate, Tracey Spicer, journalist, presenter, radio broadcaster and speaker for the affirmative team, talked about why flexible working was so crucial to gender equality.
“To me, it’s a mathematical equation: greater flexibility for both sexes plus clear career paths equals gender equality,” Spicer said.
Professor Marian Baird, Director of the Women and Work Research Group, The University of Sydney and speaker for the negative team, said it was important to recognise that flexible working could lead to inequality.
“Evidence shows that women, especially mothers, use flexible work policies more than men and this then leads to hours gaps, pay gaps and promotions gaps. Flexible working can also mean career death, when it is assumed to signal that an employee is not career focused and lacks commitment,” Prof Baird said.
Audience members were also surveyed on their own organisation’s approaches to flexible working and gender equality, and the results revealed corporate Australia is actively addressing both with:
65 per cent of participants said their organisation had developed its own business case for flexible working;
Only 12 per cent said their organisation had always or regularly advertised managerial roles that could be worked on a part-time basis;
51 per cent said their organisation had not actively promoted more men accessing flexible work arrangements;
- Most participants (60 per cent) said getting more women into leadership positions was their organisation’s highest priority for gender equality.