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Why are we still struggling with gender equality?

By Conrad Liveris - posted Wednesday, 5 March 2014

At the core, gender equality is the great social and economic opportunity of our time. The rise of women and girls has been discussed for about 150 years now, and we have seen tremendous development. Yet there are still hurdles that we cannot seem to pass.

There are great prospects for us all. If women's wages rose to that of men's the Australian economy would expand by $93 billion, while the US economy would grow by $447 billion according to two different studies using differing methodologies. There is very strong evidence that shows that women in leadership ask the hard questions and increase business productivity and efficiency.

However, we face a growing gender pay gap and lack of political or economic will to really change this. We've been stagnant, and at times regressive, over the past twenty years.


On top of this, women are the majority of university graduates, medical graduates, lawyers, and increasing postgraduates. Yet women face limitations and discrimination time and time again. We really aren't making any real change.

If women are succeeding in so many fields and education, why aren't they rising to the top? There are few female ASX200 CEOs, in positions of political power, and broadly women's issues are considered "soft" and left to the wayside.

For me though, I see great opportunity. A chance to transform our society and economy for the better. To finally get the best we can.

Men shouldn't need the excuse of a woman close to them experiencing hardship. Striving for equality is a noble ideal that shouldn't need an opening. Gender diversity makes sense; we have heard the case so many times now. The onus is on men to pull their weight and really support women.

Men need to be supported in how they can help women. Every man I speak to who is then convinced we need to do more to support gender diversity acts in his own way. He crafts his own path. When men in power do take action, great things can happen. Just look at the Male Champions of Change.

I'm often asked "where are other men?" I struggle with this, because I'm confused. I lay out a lot of facts about gender equality for men but they are still reluctant to act. "I'm all for equality, but I can't support quotas" is a common response. Apparently quotas will upset the market and the natural scheme of things.


The government plays a major role in a variety of sectors and industries, but we can't bring ourselves to say that we're okay with quotas. As a form of government intervention, quotas aren't even that burdensome. The research shows that they're primarily good for boards, companies and the economy. Yet Australia drags its heels.

While we do need to support women into leadership, sometimes we forget that there is a whole group of women who struggle more than most: low-paid single mothers. Often working in service and caring industries, these women work long hours for little pay and then are primary parents. It is a national shame that support for these women is so low.

Perhaps it is this plurality that challenges us most. The breadth and depth of the problems can be overwhelming. I look at them through different eyes though, as what we can gain.

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About the Author

Conrad Liveris is a Community Advocate and Operations Analyst, working in business development and policy with a focus on gender equality and intergenerational issues.

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