In my feedback session with my colleague I proposed my draft with a number of options for the final outcome, with different options all based on the general concept of providing information and awareness of the cause and acting as a support organisation. We evaluated the different outcomes and decided that it needed to focus on the positive value of the matter, that paternity leave is a great experience for fathers, and promote this fact in an easy going and light hearted way. Therefore, the ‘Daddy Showers’ showed to be the best option, as it seemed to give an opportunity to reach out to the audience in a way that was high impact, low cost and could communicate the values we wanted to push in the target audience.
The question my colleague raised was how to actually attract your audience to attend these events. This made me realise that the detail of how this event is executed is very important, the employees won’t necessarily turn up just because their employers are sponsoring it. We discussed a few different scenarios where attractions like food and beverage or entertainment could gain attendance. We imagined themes like barbecue and beers or sporting events most effective as attractions, despite these all being representative of traditional gender stereotypes.
Proposal – Daddy Showers
In Australia today, fathers with new born babies gets no entitlement specific leave from the government after the birth of their baby. Long lasting and sustainable change to law is a difficult and slow process, for this reason the most efficient and effective stakeholder to target to effect change in this case is the employers. They have both the most to gain from a change in behaviour and the most effect on the attitudes of their employees. It’s apparent that the number one reason for men not taking this type of leave is fear of reprisal from their employer. If this culture can be changed, the rate of male parental leave will increase drastically, and a more gender equal society will follow.
The idea of Daddy Showering is to bring attention to upcoming or existing fathers, and the importance of their role as a care taker in their child’s early life. The ‘Daddy Shower’ will identify as a service design and will be working in collaboration together with progressive employers who would like to achieve gender equity in their work place. Sponsored by volunteering companies and employers, the service organises hosted events where information about the issue and the benefits of taking paternity leave is communicated to the public.
The key challenge with this event is to remove the typically feminine image of paternity leave and indeed of the role of caring for children in the early stages of their lives. To do this it is crucial that the event maintains a typically masculine tone while also communicating important issues and breaking down stereotypes. An interesting case study of how this could be delivered is the extremely successful Movember Campaign, which has used the typically masculine concept of growing a moustache to normalise discussion of men’s health issues. Ideally the tone, as well as the look and feel of this event would mirror this and allow men to discuss and approach these issues in a comfortable and welcoming environment.
In our brainstorming session, my group members and I started to discuss and develop a problem statement for each issue. Although I had already defined the specific area in which wanted to develop my proposition (Paternity leave), I realised I had troubles with deciding on what specific moment I wanted to address within the issue, as well as if I wanted to address either the fathers, or the employers.
I got help from my peers to expand on the factors of – who, when, what, why, where etc. This was helpful to once again see the lenses through which the problem can be approached and the parameters of the problem. This made me realise that a design response would obviously affect and be addressed to an audience which is slightly older than 18-24 year olds, depending on the fact when most couples start families in Australia. (Hilder et al. 2014)
I began with stating the problem as ‘Low paternity leave causing workplace inequity’, but since this was too broad I narrowed it down it to the moment when ‘Father’s face/fear stigma when considering paternity leave’. My fellow students and I started brainstorming freely on the problem statement and we all proposed towards ideas relating to awareness of the issue, and affects to change of traditional values. For example: promotion packages, paternity showers, daddy communities etc. Most ideas were attached to service design solutions, and a few would also combine with information visualisation. This brainstorming session was probably the most rewarding one so far, everyone in my group came with insights from different ways depending on their area of interest in the issue. I believe that the mapping exercises has given us sufficient knowledge to be able to approach our issues with confidence.
By Camilla Ahlström
Ahlstrom C, Meeko L, Meland J. 2016, Brainstorming map, Class exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
Ahlstrom C. Meeko L. Meland J. 2016, Who, What, Why Where etc. Class exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
Hilder, L., Zhichao, Z., Parker, M., Jahan, S., & Chambers, G.M. 2014, Australia’s mothers and babies 2012, (Perinatal statistics series no. 30. Cat. no. PER 69.) Canberra: AIHW
In our brainstorming session, my group and I’s ideas were all leaning towards concepts relating to bringing awareness to the issue. The propositions were all acting as different service designs, and many ideas were based on promoting paternity leave with a campaign driven by an organisation. It seemed like the natural response to the issue was to give attention and support to upcoming fathers, who perhaps wouldn’t even explore the possibilities of taking paternity leave for a substantial amount of time. I developed upon our ideas and identified a few possible responses:
Promotion Packages – Information sent out to employers and companies with information for up-coming fathers, benefits of fathers spending time with new their young children and benefits for the workplace (loyalty, equality etc.)
Community – Fathers with newborn children, connecting other fathers in similar situations, meetings, events etc. Mobile application.
Rewards system for employers – Financial support for proud parenting when companies develop an equal parental leave scheme. Work flexibility and insurance for fathers with small children.
Paternity recruitment – Fathers on paternity leave become ambassadors who mentors and acts as support for other fathers.
Daddy Showers – Awareness organisation which works with companies who supports paternity leave, hosts ‘Daddy Shower’ events at companies and public places promoting the benefits of paternity leave and also brings awareness to the lack of fathers pursuing a care taker role in children’s early years.
Draft Proposal – Daddy Shower
Considering these concept possibilities, and the fact that the overall intention of the program is to change mass behaviour in society the proposal that is most likely to succeed is the one that can generate the most awareness most quickly. For this reason the proposal that I will draft on will be the daddy showers idea.
The idea of Daddy Showering is to bring attention to upcoming or existing fathers, and the importance of their role as a care taker in their child’s early life. The ‘Daddy Shower’ will identify as a service design and will be working in collaboration together with progressive employers who would like to achieve gender equity in their work place. Sponsored by volunteering companies and employers, the service organises hosted events where information and awareness about the cause is apprised and communicated to the public. The events will be held in an open or public place, for example a park or open city square, and will provide a casual, friendly venue where discussion about the subject is positively encouraged. The immediate targeted audience will of course be men who are expecting a child in the near future, but the intended goal is to spread the image of men on paternity leave and normalise the term concept.
Together with my peer, we came back to the mapping of stakeholder’s exercise that we initially started in week 3. We reflected on the structure and content of our first map and discussed how we could re-organise and build even further. Drawing on the text ‘Reassembling the Social’ by Latour (2005) we decided to break up the broad sub category of ‘society’ since this is a very hard group to define due to its conflicting values and forces. In this map we instead let stakeholders within the stand by themselves and this made it easier to define motivations and tensions between them. Since both me and my peer had done research into different areas within gender equality this broadened our map where different stakeholder were driving forces within different areas.
We chose to explore further on an issue revolving gender violence. To analyse the issue from a greater perspective, we defined human and non-human actors, motivations, emotions etc. within a number of subcategories. This specific issue was not something I had included in my research, although seeing that some actors are playing big roles in all issues. For example – Stereotyping and gender expectations.
Within these categories we then chose a few subjects to interrogate by asking a number of questions. For example – Alcohol, what is the actor responsible for? What does it value? Associations, accountability? This way of questioning an actor and its role could lead finding solutions and possibilities in a less obvious space within the issue itself.
revisiting our issue mapping exercise as a group allowed both of us to add detail to our understanding and our representation of stakeholders involved in the issues. From this improved representation we were then able to isolate and interrogate individual stakeholders, and accurately frame their role within the issue and their influence on outcomes. With this method of mapping new possibilities can present themselves, and possibilities in affecting change can also be found by putting yourself in the role of an actor.
By Camilla Ahlström
Ahlstrom, C. Hartwig, Z. 2016, Issue mapping of stakeholders, Class Exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
Ahlstrom, C. Hartwig, Z. Meland, J. 2016, Mapping of Actor, Class Exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
Ahlstrom, C. Hartwig, Z. Meland, J. 2016, Mapping of actors within issue, Class Exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
Twitter is a social media platform designed around the central feature of sharing 140 character posts with followers, while also following other users in order to receive their posts in a simple easy to digest feed.This functionality has lead to Twitter becoming of the most active discussion based communities on the web, where users cluster around issues and hashtags while also interacting with organisations and news content.
The important difference between Twitter and other social platforms is the circles and connections around issues rather than social circles or friendship groups. This leads to far more vigorous discussion of issues and more interaction with news content and news organisations.This is also seen in how users select who to follow, with many using their twitter feeds as a personally curated news source contributed to by any number of organisations or individuals they are interested in.
This is also one of the most popular tools for interaction between celebrities and other high profile figures and their fans, and the platform has often gathered negative attention due to attacks on high profile figures in the potentially anonymous environment. (Twitter 2016)
In my twitter web scraping, I set myself the goal to find data relating to parental leave for fathers, or paternity leave in Australia. The first search I was able to retrieve data with was based on the search rule:
> paternity OR leave OR feminism OR fathers OR gender OR equality #genderequality
This generated in 2791 tweets over a two week period. The tweets from this search was not specific to Australia, and only a few of them included the words paternity leave. Out of these tweets only 3 had the word ‘paternity’ in it – and none regarding Australia.
I attempted a few searches before in purpose to collect data much more specific to Australia. I experimented with words like: parental leave, fathers, #genderequality etc. These area specific searches gave me no results, so I decided to continue with global twitter searches, but more channeled towards parental leave:
> fathers parental OR leave OR gender OR equality
This generated in 891 tweets. Again I tried to specify this search to only Australia but this gave no result. There were tweets within the successful search which were from Australia, so I became unsure if I was conducting the area search correctly. I tried a more concise search with the rule:
> parental #genderequality
This generated in only 18 tweets, where one tweet had been retweeted over the last couple of weeks:
I explored the #IAmParent campaign which is an initiative from UN Women with basis in the Empower Women organisation. The campaign is a bit more specific to the current situation and urge for change in the US where there is zero federal financial support for mothers and fathers – which also was fact in Australia before 2011 (Department of Social Services 2016).
Most of the tweets I found that related to my topic had basis in the United States or India, and I realised a large part of them related to fathers day. I did a last attempt to scrape for more relevant data, with a search rule which excluded tweets addressing the debate in India, as well as most tweets relating to fathers day:
> fathers paternity OR parental OR australia -YNoLeave4Papa -India -day
This definitely resulted in a scraping more relating to my issue, and I found a few interesting accounts worth exploring.
The search led me to an organisation under the name Fathers4Equality (2013). A lot of the content created by this user related to laws regarding custody and divorce, and family in the event of separation between parents. It is definitely an organisation worth investigating to see how they position themselves with paternity leave and in what areas they experience difficulties.
It would be very interesting to see a visualisation of this data showing the gender split of people who are active around these topics. I was seeing a larger representation of men than I presumed and due to the nature of the medium perhaps views and opinions are expressed truer on Twitter.
Twitter is a powerful tool for realtime collection of opinions across a number of issues and from a huge variety of perspectives.
Successful scraping and collection of this data relies on having a clear understanding of the key terms of your issue and trial and error relating to queries.
The data scraped showed a wide variety of opinions from across the globe and a surprisingly high number of male voices, which tends to be different in the main stream media debate.
Twitter users tended to gravitate to either extreme in their opinions rather than representing a balanced point of view.
Twitter also allows users to present views and positions that may represent a small minority and therefore would not be otherwise seen in the media.
Approaches to design for change, design-led ethnography
My first task was to develop a general understanding in the gender equality topic through collecting data from secondary sources. These secondary sources referred to articles from newspapers, magazines and online news sources.
To begin deepening my knowledge in the subject this step was absolutely necessary and it gave me a clear overview of how the debate around the issue is shaped in Australia today. The analysis of the articles was preformed by contrasting and critiquing the authors positions and viewpoints. Due to the nature of the subject, the authors behind these articles are often very earnest and invested in their opinions, which resonates in their work.
My second task was set to identify two scholarly articles on the gender equality subject, and build knowledge on how the issue is positioned in these.
This was also a step in the right direction to further investigate the subject. I chose articles that described the issue from clearly different angles, locally and internationally. I found that one of these articles was much more profound than the other, this reinforced the lesson about researching the authors more closely.
The third task was commenced together with my peers through mapping out the stakeholders/participants involved in the gender equality issue.
Using our knowledge obtained from our secondary sources in previous research tasks we identified the stakeholders and their degree of impact and influence in the issue.
We all agreed on that this exercise was helpful in discovering the bigger picture, since we all researched in different areas and direction in the gender equality topic. We determined connections between the participants and we also saw how stakeholders affected each other. I built further on the maps to extract more information and gained more clarification in the issue through this.
The fourth task I developed upon was to identify and research a project produced by a designer / design studio relating to work and gender equality.
This task was challenging in terms of finding an example that was innovative with its design thinking and also based on the gender equality subject. The project I chose to research, the Data Explorer by WGEA (2015), was showing a great way of how to utilise and visualise data and make it more accessible for the public. This example is however not necessarily original and experimental in its execution, although based on the subject it related to I found that the research gave me useful knowledge.
In another research task I accumulated an image library of images depicting the issue around gender equality.
This task led me into another type of secondary source research, where your own opinion is brought forward provoked by certain images that are subjective. In hindsight it was interesting to see what type of images I collected and what this said about my own opinion.
Another primary source research I conducted was an interview with a peer in which I asked and discussed a few questions I developed revolving gender equality. (Ahlstrom 2016, pers. comm., 16 August)
The questions I formed were:
“Where would you position yourself on a scale of conservative and liberal values, why?”
“Have you ever felt or worried about gender stigmas towards any of your decisions or ambitions?”
“Have you based an idea around your own parental leave logistics, have you ever worried about effects on your career?”
“Do you feel like the contemporary popular culture are pushing towards or against gender equality?”
I received thorough and interesting answers from my interviewee based on her personal experiences and background from another country with different culture. However, the questions regarding parental leave was not something she had considered yet. The interview invited into a discussion about the differences in gender equality between cultures, and how we would imagine this would be challenged as a result of globalisation. The world is coming closer together and in these blurred lines and borders our values are colliding. This topic also transferred into my interviewees issue of choice, about refugee and asylum seekers.
The interview might have been more successful if my questions were framed differently considering that the interviewee was not in the situation to face these decisions. Due to this the interview turned into merely an open conversation, which was definitely worthwhile. What I take away from this is the importance of remembering who your audience is and how this always should be taken into account.
I developed the following probe task for my interviewee to develop upon:
“Draw a diagram showing the split of parenting between your parents”
Together with this task I gave my interviewee a few general divisions such as cooking, transport, cleaning etc. in where she would rank her parents participation.
The response to the probe task made me realise instantly that I provided too few ‘parenting’ divisions to be able to extract any useful data. For example, this diagram probably only reflects the interviewees most recent experience with her parents since it does not give a timeline. Neither does the diagram indicate what measures it uses. The task in itself worked well as a practise for this research approach. This form of probe task would be most useful and accurate if it was conducted as a survey, to be able to compare result and measure the data.
Lastly, I collaborated with my peers in a word exercise in which we ordered and experimented with words relating to the gender equality subject. This method of primary research was new to me and my peers and we were uncertain in how to determine and find insights in the subject.
At one point in the exercise we were asked to explore other groups word accumulations, regarding the same or other topics, and leave a mark on words that had an influence on you. It was interesting to see the result of this, as the words that were picked were not necessarily the ones that we had considered being most influencing at first. This task certainly extended my vocabulary in the subject as well.
The first step in commencing research should always be to explore secondary sources
The importance of primary research methods and mapping out your understanding of the subject to clarify
The importance of investigating and considering authors
Keep your audience in mind at all times, especially in interviews
The importance of language and building up a vast vocabulary in a research subject
By Camilla Ahlström
Ahlstrom, C. Carmody, A. Dulawan, B. Vuong, A. 2016, Mapping of stakeholders, class exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
Ahlstrom, C. Doust, G. Hartwig, Z. Word accumulation & mapping relating to gender equality issue, class exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
The Workplace and Gender Equality Agency is an Australian Government statutory division created as one of the enforcers of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012.
They work collaboratively with employers to further the cause of equal representation of men and women in the workplace. In their collaborations they provide advice, education and tools to help employers achieve positive gender equity goals. The Data Explorer (WGEA 2015) tool has been created for this purpose, it is an entry point for the public to explore the agencies data more clearly and in detail. It provides overviews of industries by gender pay equity and workforce comparison, and allows the user to explore data across a range of topics in the majority of industries. The Data Explorer also enables the user to specifically compose role and employee types in order to get a more specific result of gender pay gaps. It additionally shows comparison to prior years and how strategies and actions towards gender equality affects this data.
Datasets traditionally face the issue of lack of accessibility and lack of impact due to difficulty in synthetising and processing its complexity. What the data explorer effectively achieves is simplified and visual access to statistics. This takes an issue that is often dehumanised by numbers and brings it into the clear light of day by giving all users simple access to the explorer.
WGEA also encourages employers and employees to use the social media tag #MyEqualityStat to share the statistics uncovered using the explorer. Once again this is a clever way to raise awareness through simple and social digital tools.
The Data Explorer was built and designed by Flink Labs (2015), which is a design agency specialising in data mining and visualisation. Their work revolves around solving problems by designing and creating interactive data visualisations, that in the end provoke conversations and enhance understanding and engagement in the subject. They achieve this through simple and beautiful presentations of complex data in a format that allows both exploration and understanding regardless of analytical ability. Flink Labs collaborates with various different clients, with many projects focusing on the processing and presentation of economic data relevant to peoples everyday lives.
The Data Explorer is an excellent example of a growing area of design where data visualisation is used to communicate a message that otherwise would have been lost in the depths of complex numerical representations. Global leaders in the media space such as the New York Times have adopted data visualisation as a key tool of communication and designers continually improve the visual representation of this information to provide users with an engaging and informative experience (New York Times 2015).
The self service nature of the visualisation tool also plays an important role, where traditional written journalism requires writers to communicate a single point to readers data visualisation acts as a choose your own journey style of communication. This leaves users with access to the most relevant and interesting data to them, rather than simplified and generic information.
Data journalism and visualisation represents a growing amalgamation of the fields of journalism and design. Both rely on the basic concept of conveying meaning to people, with one achieving this through words and the other through images and interactive visual elements. In this particular example data journalism has a significant advantage over traditional written articles, particularly in a situation like this where the issue is often considered a contentious one. Visualisation presents statistics in self service fashion without bias or perspective, this allows conclusions to be drawn by the viewer on their own merit rather than under the influence of the opinion of the author, which has been seen throughout some of my other research in this area.
we see this data explorer as excellent example of the growing practice of data visualisation and data journalism in design. The use of interactive visual design to represent complex datasets to users in a simple and easily digestible form. In this case this visualisation is used to shine a light on the stark nature of gender inequality in the workplace in Australia. Often a hotly debated issue in the media this tool allows users to draw their own conclusions from the queries they put into the tool. As a result the tool is able to draw focus to an issue that is often misrepresented or lost in complex historical records and statistics.
To get a broader understanding of our chosen issue, my peers and I used a mapping method in order to clarify the stakeholders and participants in regards to gender equality. To begin with, we established a few collective categories (organisations, policy makers, people etc) on which we later brainstormed openly into other subcategories and groups. We found that we had a vast array of participants due to the different types of research we had conducted. We also found that many participants came up in several places and this showed us how many stakeholders are inter-dependent. Some stakeholders have a greater influence in the issue, and to clarify this hierarchy we used colours to show the categories in which they fall in, from blue (more), red, and yellow (less).
After this exercise I made another attempt in mapping out only the stakeholders which we categorised as having high influence. The connections between these participants were difficult to clearly make out in our initial map.
This mapping did not necessarily give more insight but it gave a clearer view of only the participants with largest investment in the issue, without the clutter. I decided to make another attempt in clarifying the map once again.
In this map I identified three main categories, society, policy makers and organisations, in which I arrayed the participants. In our initial map there were many duplications, which I tried to avoid here. In regards to values and world views the three categories would be hard to define as pushing towards or against equality. The organisations which we related to the issue are all working towards gender equality more or less. The government bodies and the policies and laws they create are representing a group with conflicting interests, where some view gender equality as a more emerging issue than others. This group is a direct reflection of the society, which also consists of groups with vast differences in traditional and progressive values and views.
It is interesting to consider how each of whether or not each of these stakeholders act as a barrier or driver of the shift toward gender equality, of course no organisation is going to be outwardly against such a cause, but there are plenty examples of organisations and stakeholders acting as roadblocks for different reasons. When considered through this lens the map takes on a different completion. Take the example of policy makers, while world view would suggest a move toward equality being uniform across this group actions suggest otherwise, with the example of the lack of commitment to reforms to paid parental leave across both parties being an example of a lack of drive behind the cause. It could also be argued that given the low number of women serving in the current government that from a symbolic point of view policy makers are doing more harm than good.
The same applies to media, who broadly support the cause whenever possible or at least in world view however are often seen to be acting against the cause with content they produce. The classic example of this was seen through the Olympics where female medalists were often referred to more prominently by who their husbands or partners were rather than their sporting achievements. This is often a split that is seen between media organisations, with some putting a greater emphasis on representing causes such as gender equality, while others pursue sensationalist commercial goals.
This image of Mark Zuckerberg was released from a private collection attached to the birth of his daughter. The Facebook CEO also announced that he was taking 2 months paternity leave around this time. I think this image gives a positive visual interpretation as it is showing a man pursuing parenting in his child’s early years, despite the high demands of his career.
This image was featured in an article in the daily telegraph with one of the sub titles reading:
“SHE recently stepped out on the town in what one fashion expert described as resembling a ‘cheap motel bed sheet’.”
The article was written by Paul Toohey who is, strangely not a fashion writer, but a senior reporter at the Australian covering areas such as politics and social issues. Expert fashion tips were also disclosed in this article provided by personal stylist Imogen Lamport. The image of the former PM in this particular outfit has obviously met a lot of critique, which is the reason this article and image got published. Why many people feel compelled to react to their dislike of the clothes she’s wearing is concerning, since fashion and the work of a PM are in no way connected. This type of criticism shows that the expectation on a female PM differs from a male when it comes to appearance.
This image depicts short comic of a women and a man having a conversation about the women’s efforts in her day. It is a concise representation of a woman’s ambition to ‘have it all’ ie maintaining a career and being the caretaker of home and children. The man response is humorous, but is expressing demands rather than support in her cause.
This image of construction worker Dawn Grover shows the juxtaposition of what is traditionally considered male work, and a female filling that role. What this image achieves is a challenge to roles that are traditionally considered masculine by placing a female in the position.
This comic is an interpretation of a boardroom without equal gender representation, making decision based on this. What is seen here is an historical attitude towards equal gender representation where a group of men are tasked with assessing the fairness of gender policy. The conclusion drawn is representative of so many throughout history, where males assess the situation to be fine by their beliefs and therefore make no changes.
This image is an historical image of the early representations of female voting. What is surprising about this image is the flipping of perceived gender roles, where any advancement of female rights comes at the cost of male rights. This was a commonly held perspective and shows the challenges faced by the equal rights movement to this day.
This artwork is depicting a women with a newborn child, sitting on a see-saw with a briefcase as the counterweight. It clearly interprets the work-life balance that mothers experience with giving birth to a child.
This image is part of a photo series depicting fathers on paternity leave. It’s interesting to think about how the world would look like if our parental responsibility and time spent with children were split equally between the genders.
This is a poster of a documentary called ‘It’s a girl – the three deadliest words in the world’. The documentary reports on the so called ‘gendercides’ that are happening in India and China and many other parts of the world. In india for example, there are 37 million more men than women. I have not seen this movie yet, however I think the poster is a very powerful image in itself. It shows the challenges and tragedy that exist to this day when being born and raised a female, both from the perspective of the parents, as well as the child.
The last image is depicting Beyonce Knowles at a Video Music Award performance in 2014. She clearly announces herself to be a feminist with this statement and challenges the traditions and and dominant ideology of male culture. This is an important stand to take for a pop culture icon as the flow on affects to the rest of the world are significant.
Researching image sources allows more personal conclusion and is provoking ideas and objectives based on your own opinion.
The documentary ‘It’s a Girl (2012) brings awareness to a very upsetting message about ‘gendercides’ occurring in many parts of the world. Fighting this is fighting for gender equality, everywhere, and we must begin with ourselves to set example.
Paternity leave images are strong in its messaging for responsible parenthood, stronger than images of maternity leave.
By Camilla Ahlström
Ahlstrom, C. Carmody, A. Dulawan, B. Vuong, A. 2016., Mapping of stakeholders, class exercise, University of Technology, Sydney
‘Australia’s Parental Leave Policy and Gender Equality: An International Comparison’
The article written by Broomhill and Sharp (2011) focused on how the paid parental leave scheme in Australia will contribute to transitioning to a more equal gender order in the dual worker/carer structure. They listed the positive aspects that the scheme already provides but concluded that it falls short in many other areas compared to other European models. For example more flexible and longer parental leave, and provision of assigned father only leave. And of course a more generous paid leave for parents. In this article they recommend the Australian policymakers to look at other European models for measures in parental leave welfare goals, however it does not point out that these countries work on a different tax model.
‘Parents’ jobs in Australia: work hours polarisation and the consequences for job quality and gender equality’
The article written by Charlesworth, Strazdins, O’brian & Sims (2012) criticises the policies and contracts in Australia today due to the results being that one parent leaves the work force for a short period of time (often unpaid), and returns to the market part time as secondary earners to enable care (overwhelmingly mothers). They conclude that this fact results in direct implications for the quality of jobs in which parents work. They found very few examples of both mothers and fathers with jobs with optimised quality, hours, and contract. In their research they looked at other OECD countries in which Australia also falls short with their parental leave scheme. This report seems more profound than the other paper I found since it has been looking at hard facts and statistics of contracts in Australia. This would be more relevant than comparing existing models between countries with different taxation structures.
By Camilla Ahlström
Broomhill, R, & Sharp, R. 2012. ‘Australia’s Parental Leave Policy and Gender Equality: An International Comparison’, Adelaide: Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre, The University of Adelaide
Charlesworth, S, Strazdins, L, O’Brien, L and Sims, S 2011, ‘Parents’ jobs in Australia : work hours polarisation and the consequences for job quality and gender equality‘, Australian Journal of Labour Economics, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 35-57
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.
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.
‘Child benefit has been changing lives for 70 years – let’s not forget the woman behind it’
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.
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.
‘Liberal MP Sharman Stone attacks paid parental leave policy’
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.
‘Where are the dads? Parental leave for men remains low’
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.
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).
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