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‘Gender equality – are we there yet?’

(Haussegger 2015)

The author of this article is an ABC Canberra journalist named Virginia Haussegger. She is also a board member of the UN Women National Committee of Australia. This unarguably puts her in a position of expertise in the subject of women’s rights and equality in Australia, and she regularly produces articles like these for ABC news.

In the article she states that the ‘The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action’ (A blueprint for advancing women’s rights signed by 189 countries from 1995) has no or little progress and even going backwards, world wide as well as in Australia.

I understand that this declaration, addressing issues such as poverty, education, health, power, media etc, would have been directed at these countries with vast differences as women’s rights world wide are almost incomparable. A declaration of this size, and in this issue, seems almost impossible to achieve. The author is calling for a global forum to challenge the declaration again, but perhaps we should acknowledge the fail and demand the declaration to be rewritten into a more achievable agenda.

Another note on this article is that the author seems to quote a few individuals responses from an unofficial conversation: “I thought, are you serious? Oh really? I’m going to be 60 years old by 2030, and we’ll only just achieving parity of representation of women. Really!” This can be statement from the individual from a personal viewpoint, but it is delivered by the author as the individual’s professional opinion.

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‘Child benefit has been changing lives for 70 years – let’s not forget the woman behind it’

(James 2016)

The author of this article, Selma James, is an American socialist activist and founder of the International Wages for Housework Campaign. In this article she is crediting the work of Eleanor Rathbone, a women’s activist who campaigned for child carers (mothers) earning ‘family allowances in cash’, what is today known as child support, in 1929. This cause is close to the authors heart as it symbolises the very start to equity pay between the genders. The article is factual as it describes a past event and time, but in the last paragraph the author describes today’s feminism as being reduced to ‘only breaking the glass ceiling’ and calls for a more humane society. This comment is very subjective, I would describe today’s feminism to be more wide-spread than 70 years ago.

Although it is clear that breaking the glass ceiling is an important concern of the modern gender equality and particularly feminist movement, it is simplistic to reduce the entire movement to this one concern. We see the campaign for paid parental leave as a key example of the more widespread concerns of campaigners for equality. On top of this we see the global campaigns for reproductive rights and freedom of choice as other examples of the broader cause. For this reason, although I do believe that the article does provide interesting insight into the initial battle for paid parental leave, its conclusion is simplistic and therefore not particularly useful in a broader study of the issues relating to gender.

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‘Women, leadership and the myth of merit’

(Shaw 2016)

Elizabeth Shaw currently serves as the president of UN Women Australia, Deputy Chair of Global Voices, and as a Director of Inclusion WA. She recently wrote this article where she criticises the Australian parliaments opposition to quotas due to ‘merit based pre-selection’, when choosing members of the parliament. When I searched for more articles written by Elizabeth Shaw there was not many published online, however plenty where she was quoted and referenced as a trustworthy source and widely cited opinion. I do agree on the argument she is making in the article, she writes:

“it is unfortunate that in most discussions of quotas, there is a fear that a qualified man may be overlooked for promotion in a system that has overlooked qualified women for decades”.

This certainly applies to the parliament as this is viewed as a model for board rooms etc. In another paragraph she writes that quotas within the parliament would “likely enhance the performance”, and while this could be true the comment seems to take one side more than the other as opposed to equity.

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‘Liberal MP Sharman Stone attacks paid parental leave policy’

(Taylor 2015)

The author of this article is reporting on members of parliament critisising the governments withdrawal of access to the paid parental leave scheme to mothers who already receive an amount from their employers. The MP she is citing most is Dr Sharman Stone who defends low-income women who needs to access both taxpayers and employer schemes to achieve a decent amount of time with their newborns. She is also citing two more sources who are positioned to be against the government’s action for saving and none who are standing behind it. However, the references seem to be profound, Chris Bowen – Shadow Treasurer, said:

“An ill-thought out, illusory saving [from the Government], as employers naturally and inevitably consider removing their own schemes as their employees will, under the Abbott-Hockey model, be no better off as a result of their employer schemes”.

Australia’s parental leave scheme arguably needs significant restructure in order to achieve the kind of outcomes seen from the best performing systems around the world, these outcomes being equal opportunity both in the workplace and at home for both mothers and fathers as well the best environment for the development of a newborn child.

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Set Your Site In Greater Philadelphia (Rozen 1952)
Set Your Site in Greater Philadelphia (Rozen 1952) – Vintage artwork of father arriving home to family after work.

‘Where are the dads? Parental leave for men remains low’

(Perkins 2015)

Perkins is a senior reporter at the Age and Sydney Morning Herald who writes about social affairs and often covers issues like family violence, the status of women, social trends, families, sexuality, disability etc. In this report she is comparing research conducted locally and internationally regarding paternity leave. The author also cites a number of trustworthy sources such as academic experts in the subject. The article is an articulating the authors opinion on the issue, which supports paid paternity leave and lists a number of supporting reasons.

The strongest point she’s making is the effects of implementing quotas in parental leave schemes, where portions of the leave is assigned only to fathers, and is non transferrable. Since just one in fifty Australian men takes parental leave today, this could definitely be  positive initiative in the quest for more a more equitable split between mother and father when it comes to parental leave as well as workplace opportunity.

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Positions to investigate

All these viewpoints has resulted based on different motivations and purposes, and while some are more trustworthy than others, they are all presenting interesting insights in how the issue is reacted to.

  • The opinion expressed by Elizabeth Shaw (2016) regarding the Australian parliaments opposition to quotas due to the ‘myth of merit’, channels into questions about how this reflects onto the countries boardrooms and senior leader roles.
  • Another interesting point to investigate is how Australian parental leave schemes has developed since 2011 (introduction), and why the policy continuously faces criticism (Taylor 2015).
  • Lastly, a very interesting point to investigate is how implementing quotas between parents in parental leave schemes would have positive effects on all stakeholders – Women, employers, men and children (Perkins 2016).
By Camilla Ahlström

Haussegger, V. 2015, ‘Gender Equality: Are We There Yet?’, ABC News, viewed on 1 August 2016 <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-24/beijing-plus-20-feature/6792478>
James, S. 2016, ‘Child benefit has been changing lives for 70 years – let’s not forget the woman behind it’, The Guardian Opinion, Australia Edition, viewed on 7 August 2016 <https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/06/child-benefit-70-years-eleanor-rathbone>
Perkins, M. 2016, ‘Where are the dads? Parental leave for men remains low’, BusinessDay, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed on 13 August 2016 <http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/where-are-the-dads-parental-leave-for-men-remains-low-20160303-gn9hg0.html>
Rozen, J. 1952, ‘Set your site in Greater Philadelphia’, viewed 16 August 2016, <https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulmalon/8647535643>
Shaw, E. 2016, ‘Women, leadership and the Myth of Merit’, The Sydney Morning Herald, Comment, viewed on 2 August 2016
<http://www.smh.com.au/comment/women-leadership-and-the-myth-of-merit-20160802-gqj165.html>
Taylor, L. 2015, ‘Liberal MP Sharman Stone attacks paid parental leave policy’, The Guardian Politics, Australia Edition, viewed on 11 August 2016 <https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/may/21/liberal-mp-sharman-stone-attacks-coalitions-paid-parental-leave-policy>
United Nation, 1995, ‘The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action’, United Nation Women, viewed 12 August 2016 <http://www.unwomen.org/~/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/csw/pfa_e_final_web.pdf>
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