Young Women’s Thoughts on Gender Equality and Increasing Participation Rates

During the G20 Leaders’ Forum held in Brisbane in November 2014, NCWQ President Noela O’Donnell was honoured to attend the G20 International Dialogue on Women in Leadership, supported by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and Griffith University. This was a most inspirational experience and made Noela curious about young women’s thoughts about various issues.

Paragraph 9 of the G20 Leaders Summit communiqué was “Our actions to increase investment, trade and competition will deliver quality jobs. But we must do more to address unemployment, raise participation and create quality jobs. We agree to the goal of reducing the gap in the participation rates between men and women in our countries by 25 per cent by 2025, taking into account national circumstances, to bring more than 100 million women into the labour force, significantly increase global growth and reduce poverty and inequality.”

Noela contacted inspiring young woman with a connection to the National Council of Women of Queensland Inc (NCWQ) for their considered thoughts on this goal.

Here are some of the responses:

Elise Stephenson

Young Women Elise Stephenson pic

 

 

 

 

Do you think improving the equality of participation rates between men and women is desirable? Have you experienced yourself, or know of situations where being female counted against you in obtaining a job?

I believe that improving the equality of participation rates between men and women is not just desirable, it is critical. Women’s empowerment and equal opportunities in employment are as crucial to women as they are to men, our economy and our society. With greater female participation we are able to tackle a wider range of issues, from different points of view, and deeper than we would have the capacity to do so were they not in the workforce. Economically, the benefits are clear, with the Grattan Institute estimating that if Australian women’s workforce participation was increased similar to a level of women in Canada, Australia’s GDP would be $25 billion greater per year. Alongside this, the societal benefits are incredible, from helping to dismantle out-dated notions of women’s capabilities, to empowering communities and typically disenfranchised groups, to promoting understanding, reflection and greater opportunities for those who evidently have something to offer our society, but perhaps have not always had the ability to do so.

As a young woman, I don’t want to ever think that I am being discriminated against or held back simply because of my gender. However being well-educated, and studying gender equality and women’s leadership as part of my honours degree, I know that the statistics tell another story, even in our relatively egalitarian society. Fortunately, as I am just at the beginning of my career path and onto studying my third degree, rather than working right now, and so I haven’t experienced difficulty in being female and going for a job. I’ll let you know how I go!

Do you believe it is do-able for all countries, or that it would be more difficult in developing countries?

In developing countries the fight for equal representation of women in work is compounded by many other issues of gender equality and gender relations often embedded in that type of society. As we know, education is key to the empowerment of marginalised, oppressed or otherwise constrained groups. However often in developing countries, access to education is limited and daily needs for survival trump systemic change, particularly when it comes to gender and issues which are centuries old and so taken for granted. With that said, I believe it is do-able for all countries. As much as I might not like the slow nature of change, I believe that by working bit by bit, radical change on gender equality and women’s workforce participation can happen over time. Someone once told me that if you are travelling east, it is a direction you are going in, rather than a location you are arriving at. Likewise, perhaps by thinking of gender equality and women’s equal workforce participation as a direction we are moving towards, developing countries can gradually improve, even if perhaps they started moving a little later than other countries or their compass sometimes plays up.

 Do you think that social norms will change to allow for greater equality in participation rates?

Social norms will absolutely change. They have to. I am not sitting back and neither are my friends, male and female. Apathy and a belief that we are doing okay as we are really limits our possibilities to improve and change, however I believe that by inspiring and instilling a passion in our society to correct past injustices, outdated beliefs and unhelpful notions of femininity/masculinity/women’s work/men’s work, we can change to allow for greater equality in workforce participation. I believe that key to this is, as always, education and an ability to be mindful and reflective of our current norms and where we can improve them, as well as a commitment to pass on our observations to our friends and family, and open debate with those who perhaps have more learning to do than others. We must all work forward confidently and with a willingness to challenge, educate and lead.

Where do you see yourself and your role in 2025? What plans can you make to bring this to reality?

In 2025 I hope to be as passionate and mindful (if not more) as I am now. At this stage, careers elude me, as I believe that rather than striving for a particular career, I would like to strive for a particular lifestyle, in which I am balancing my personal development and enjoyment with my ability to make a tangible positive effect on women and leadership. I would love to be working for an organisation like UN Women in a position of leadership within the Asia-Pacific region and I have already started working towards this by completing my honours in women’s empowerment and leadership in Hong Kong this year as an Inaugural New Colombo Plan Scholar of the Australian Government. At the end of the day, as long as I am open to taking as many opportunities as I can to develop personally and professionally, I am sure that I will be involved in a lot of influential and interesting causes which will help me live a meaningful and useful life.

Steph Carter

StephCarter

 

 

 

 

Do you think improving the equality of participation rates between men and women is desirable? Have you experienced yourself, or know of situations where being female counted against you in obtaining a job?

I certainly think that equality of participation rates between men and women is not just desirable, but essential. Particularly in the developing world, much needs to be done to break down barriers to social, economic and political participation for women; fighting perceptions held about their place in the home and workplace. For myself, while I haven’t noticed barriers in obtaining job, once working within a professional workplace or system that has a top level male management team, promotion and recognition often doesn’t come as easy as it does for male colleagues- when I know I am just as if not more competent than them. That can be highly demotivating.

Do you believe it is do-able for all countries, or that it would be more difficult in developing countries?

Certainly it would be more difficult in developing countries- particularly when an ingrained culture means that much needs to be done to overcome stereotypes or expected gender roles for women. This kind of institutional and social change takes time, as we have seen in the West (and it is certainly ongoing, with much room for improvement!).

Do you think that social norms will change to allow for greater equality in participation rates?

I always hope that social norms will change to allow this transformation in participation to occur. However, in order to do this, we need more female and definitely more male champions for gender equality and participation in countries where it is most needed- men need to join the conversation just as much.

Where do you see yourself and your role in 2025? What plans can you make to bring this to reality?

I am hoping, through my professional role and skills as a development communications professional, to promote the importance and benefits of gender equality for the development outcomes and productivity of a country- and indeed, for social welfare.

Rotem Nusem

Young Women Rotem Nusem pic

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think improving the equality of participation rates between men and women is desirable? Have you experienced yourself, or know of situations where being female counted against you in obtaining a job?

 Improving equality of participation rates between men and women is highly desirable. Equal opportunities and equal representation are crucial for the future of the global community. Within Australia, not only the representation of men and women, but also the increased employment of the indigenous and minority communities, should be a key concern for our democratically minded society. Gender discrimination in the workplace continues to adversely impact upon a woman’s capacity to not only obtain, but excel in many fields of work. Sexism in this form, is something I personally have never experienced. However, I am aware of several cases of people who are very close to me, who have been in situations where being female counted against them in obtaining a job. In one particular case, two male employees threatened to quit if a woman was appointed to this high-skilled position. Discrimination like this is unjust beyond a doubt, but unfortunately, it is present all around us. 

Do you believe it is do-able for all countries, or that it would be more difficult in developing countries?

I whole-heartedly believe that equality of participation rates between men and women is do-able for all countries, including developing nations. Breaking down social norms and reestablishing cultural values is a barrier for equal participation throughout the global community. With technological advances bringing a new era of globalisation, and with that, new challenges to our values and beliefs, the equal representation of men and women is paramount to our constantly developing society. Traditional values and social constructs are posing a challenge to improving the equality of participation rates between men and women in developing countries. For example, in many regions of Bangladesh, girls from a young age a taught domestic skills such as cooking, cleaning and sewing, whereas the boys are sent to school to receive a formal education. This can make equal participation in the future very difficult, as a large part of the female population has not received an education and thus would not be eligible for many high-skilled jobs. By promoting the importance of education and supporting families who might be struggling financially, this cultural practice can one day be deconstructed, allowing an increased number of girls to receive a formal education. Equal participation rates in developing countries has its own obstacles, nonetheless, it is do-able, at a different pace to already developed nations.

Do you think that social norms will change to allow for greater equality in participation rates?

Social norms are undoubtedly going to change to allow for greater equality in participation rates between men and women. We’ve seen, throughout the past century, the change in social norms to accommodate for women in the workforce. Equal participation rates is not a process that will happen overnight, it will inevitably require efforts from every aspect of society. However, as long as we have a government promoting equal opportunities, and support networks for women pursuing new career opportunities, I think our society can thrive on equal participation.

Where do you see yourself and your role in 2025? What plans can you make to bring this to reality? 

In 2025, I see myself hopefully pursuing my interest in aid and development as well as human rights issues. I hope to be working within the UN Industrial Development Organisation or within the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, within Programme Management or Political Affairs. Currently I am halfway through my degree at the ANU, and planning to start an internship at Parliament House. After finishing my degree at the ANU, I hope to complete a Masters degree overseas and return to work in the Graduate Program offered by DFAT. As a result, I aspire to undertake internships within either UNIDO or OHCHR and so further pursue fields I am passionate about.

Kirsty Levis
Young Women Kirsty Levis pic

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think improving the equality of participation rates between men and women is desirable? Have you experienced yourself, or know of situations where being female counted against you in obtaining a job?

Yes it is desirable.  Not in my line of work, been working since 13 and never had an incident that being female counted against the job.  As I am normally tested for jobs at the interview stage of the selection process, skills have more weight than being female or male.

Do you believe it is do-able for all countries, or that it would be more difficult in developing countries?

Do-able for all countries as once women are trained they can do anything.

Do you think that social norms will change to allow for greater equality in participation rates?

Unsure if change correct word, maybe improve with time.  Women are treated differently in different countries and not always seen as equal so not level playing field to start with.

Where do you see yourself and your role in 2025? What plans can you make to bring this to reality?

As an Office Manager, Business Services Manager or Human Resource Manager ensure that women are considered for all roles in the business I work for, or employ women in my own business.

Jessica Maher

O

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think improving the equality of participation rates between men and women is desirable? Have you experienced yourself or know of situations where being female counted against you in obtaining a job?

I believe that equal participation in the workforce is not only desirable, but also necessary to ensure economic and social development. By increasing participation rates, millions of women will enter the workforce, improving global growth and reducing poverty worldwide. Currently, according to the United Nations Population Fund, 6 out of 10 of the world’s poorest people are women. Women are currently disadvantaged in the workforce, earning less than males and doing most of the unpaid work within society such as cleaning, cooking and washing.

Do you believe it is do-able for all countries, or that it would be more difficult in developing countries?

It is difficult to expect the same results from countries with very different economic situations. Even in 2015, there are still developing countries struggling to attain basic living standards for all individuals including access to health services and education as well as the provision of food and housing. Every situation is different, and therefore requires a different approach. It is important to consider national circumstances and engage grassroots organisations who are well informed about the problems in each community.

Do you think that social norms will change to allow for greater equality in participation rates?

I hope so. While I personally have not experienced sexism within Australia, I believe that social norms still disadvantage women. Although women in Australia are amongst the most educated in the world, female participation in the workforce is still not equal to male participation. Social norms are still prevalent and can act as a barrier to equal participation in the workforce, particularly in high leadership positions. Currently, Australian women comprise less than one-third of all parliamentarians and one-fifth of all ministers. According to a 2014 report by the Parliament of Australia, Australia’s ranking for women in federal government continues to decline when compared internationally.

Where do you see yourself and your role in 2025? What plans can you make to bring this to reality? 

In ten years, my dream is to work within the international development field, particularly focusing on gender equality and improving access to education in developing countries. In order to make this a reality, I plan to keep myself informed and engaged, while getting as much experience as I can within the field.

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