Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Workplace Gender Equality by Guest Speaker Libby Lyons

NCWV April Forum Guest Speaker Libby Lyons

At the April 2021 Council meeting, guest speaker: Ms Libby Lyons, Director, Australian Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) 
 dealing with non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees – including Victorian organisations, spoke about gender Equality. 



She was appointed in October 2015. She has chosen to leave her current position, after 5.5 years. On a personal note, Libby is granddaughter of Australian PM Joseph Lyons (1932-39) and equally eminent Dame Enid Lyons MP.

Libby is excited that new legislation in gender equality is coming but sexual harassment is common in the workplace. WGEA’s budget is $5 million per annum and she is proud of the many achievements of her “great staff”. Data collected annually over 8 years, from 4.3million employees in 11,000 organisations with 100 plus employees, makes Australia the envy of the world.

There has been improvement for women in 5 of the past 7 years. However there is concern that the reality of gender equality is stalling in the last 2 with some complacency, box ticking, apathy and loss of momentum.

Action plans are needed as gender pay gap has increased by 5%, a result in part of higher bonuses, shift allowances etc paid to men, hiring biases and women moving in and out of the workforce to have children. However, more companies are analysing their actual pay gaps to identify that a gap exists. Some deny having a gap and are shocked when data shows the actual difference in take-home pay for women. While equal pay is required under legislation, gender pay gap equals the average difference in pay to men versus women, such as more men in management roles, women’s time-outs, part-time work of women which is 3 times that of men, fewer promotions.

Pre-COVID most women worked within a gender equality policy, 40% of managers were women, 45% of promotions were to women but in the ranks of CEOs, only 18.3% were women. Sadly, the glass ceiling is alive and well. No paid parental leave was paid by 25% of companies (and thus no superannuation accruing during leave). Libby believes that men should be paid parental leave, particularly so that the female partner can return to work sooner if desired.

Victoria leads the way in gender equality and 70% of companies in Victoria have a Domestic Family Violence Policy. Ms Lyons spoke about the complimentary work done by SAGE (Science in Australia Gender Equity), WGEA and the Victorian Gender Equity Commission to address gender equity without replicating employer reporting obligations.

Ms Lyons highlighted the following

1. Provision of affordable childcare which is a State Government issue, saying childcare should be an add-on to universal education for children.

2. Paid parental leave should exist for all eligible parents. Men need to be able to take parental leave to free up their partner to return to work if desired.

3. Flexible working hours for men should be normalised. However, men tend to be present in person in the workplace more often than women, making decisions and sharing ideas. Women may miss out on promotions at times through not requesting it, or being on leave.

Middle age is now defined at around 56 and we are not deemed “elderly” until we reach 80. Many want to work into their 60s but are overlooked for being too old, with some young people missing jobs due to inexperience! The plan is for date of birth of employees to be collected to assist in following the career trajectory of individuals, age of various groups and the age at which people leave jobs, to help policy development. This will be vital data.

Data regarding training against harassment and discrimination is not available. Many women are angry about discrimination and concerned about treatment of women in the justice and legal system being dominated by men, with too often women deemed to be the “guilty party”.

Most men are good so we should not develop a women vs men mentality. The Federal Government is beginning to see the need for change with PM Scott Morrison appointing more women and to new positions. We must bring men with us, not push them away.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Equal Opportunities for all Women in Australia and Overseas by Guest Speaker Dr Niki Vincent



At the February 2021 Council Meeting, guest speaker, 
Dr Niki Vincent, appointed Commissioner for Gender Equality in the Public Sector for Victoria in September 2020, spoke about her new role and passion for equal opportunities for all women in Australia and overseas She shared a little of her own story, telling us that she left home at 15, was married at 18 and had four children by 28, but had not let obstacles stand in her way, fighting for better conditions for women, especially those who are working and caring alone for their families, while men advance without the dual role of homemaker and primary carer. Some employers do not make allowances for women’s unique situation or for the constraints imposed more significantly on them by COVID-19 . There is also no measure of unpaid care. 

The new [Victorian] Gender Equality Act that comes into law from 31 March 2021 excites Dr Vincent as it covers the work practices and gender equity realities of 300 Public Service entities with more than 50 employees imposing mandatory Gender Equality Action Plans with indicators including gender composition, recruitment and promotion policies and practices, leave, and gender pay equity. Dr Vincent told us that there is at least 10% less pay for women in similar jobs in the Public Service at present. The effectiveness of the implementation of each entity’s Gender Equality Action Plans will be audited by her Department every four years and entities are required to self-report their progress every two years. Dr Vincent informed us that she and her team are working closely with unions and the Victorian Human Rights Commissioner. The introduction of the Act will be accompanied by a travelling “roadshow” led by her, including training for leaders who will train others. She is optimistic that awareness of inequality for women in Victoria will increase and be addressed, but has grave concerns for women in third-world countries.

Link to the Gender Equality Commission in Victoria:

Gender impact assessments | Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector

Gender impact assessments from 31 March 2021. 

Guidance for defined entities to comply with the Act 2020. 

Tools and resources are located at Gender Equity Victoria Advocacy Toolkit - Gen Vic; Visit Gender Equity Vitoria for guidelines on gender advocacy in the community. Advocacy is part of a broader movement to: • advance gender equity within Victoria; • promote better health outcomes for women and girls in our ; • prevent violence against women and girls before it happens.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

60th Australia Day Pioneer Women’s Ceremony, 2021

60th Australia Day Pioneer Women’s Ceremony, 2021 was held at the Women’s Peace Garden, Kensington, a beautiful garden created by women in the International Year of Peace in 1986. This annual event celebrates Victorian Pioneer Women, conducted by the National Council of Women of Victoria, to acknowledge past and present women pioneers and includes a colour party and flag raising by Girl Guides Victoria and the singing of the National Anthem.



This year, the focus was on Victorian Pioneer Women in Medical Research

There have been many women working in medical research over the past 100+ years including: Fannie Eleanor Williams, the first female medical research scientist at the Walter and Eliza Institute, and the first bacteriologist and serologist. She was an expert in dysentery due to her research during WW1, and was awarded the Associate Royal Red Cross for her work. She co-founded the Red Cross Blood Bank. Dora Lush, an accomplished bacteriologist, was a close collaborator with Sir Macfarlane Burnet 1934-39 researching diseases including influenza, herpes infections and myxomatosis. 

Guest Speaker, Professor Susan Sawyer, Chair of Adolescent Health, Department of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne, research fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Director of the Centre for Adolescent Health, Royal Children’s Hospital, spoke on three themes: 

Firstly, the importance of investing in medical research, and the value of evidence informed public health policies exemplified by reminding us of some of the highlights of our 2020 pandemic year. 

The second theme was about the strong track record of Victorian women in medical research, sharing the achievements of two remarkable Victorian women pioneers of medical research, one, Vera Scantlebury Brown, in research and public policy from 100 years ago and the other in virology, Dr Ruth Bishop, from 50 years ago. 

Thirdly, Susan shared her background in ground-breaking adolescent health and medicine. 

>> Click here to read Professor Susan Sawyer, speech