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Naomi Simson celebrity events speaker

I was chatting to a family member over the weekend and he mentioned my recent uplifting post as to how far the women entrepreneur ecosystem has come in Australia. Then he said… “I just don’t see sexism anywhere, Naomi”. He works for a business where one of the three owners is a woman and he says that every one is paid based on his or her merit… so technically the business he works for has a third leadership.

It is interesting that he says “He just doesn’t see it”. I of course held my tongue (I wanted to lash out physically) but instead I firmly reminded him that there is an 18.2% pay gap across the board in Australia. I omitted to mention that of the 226 seats in the Federal Parliament, 69 are held by women that is at 7 July 2014 women comprise 29.0 per cent of all parliamentarians in Australia. However we only have one woman holding a top job in the cabinet.

And what about women on ASX boards? It has been improving slightly, but 36 of the ASX200 still have no female representation and the latest document states the percentage of women on ASX 200 boards is 18.6% (31 August 2014) according to the AICD.

Let’s consider something a little closer to home – the balance of superannuation. The average superannuation account balance for women was $40,475, compared to $71,645 for men. Men hold around 63% of total superannuation account balances, compared to 37% for women. Most women live longer and will retire without the funds to sustain them.

In 2010 Carol Schwartz together with CEO Amy Mullins and fellow directors set up the Womens Leadership Institute of Australia – providing a resource of hundreds of women available as a rich resource to support the media and others seeking out women leaders for comment, speaking and contribution to a balanced voice. But alas little has changed she laments. I know myself from personal experience in chatting with my speaking agent – she gets 10 requests for a male speaker to every one women. I have a one in 10 chance of getting a gig – and guess what… I will be paid less for it.

Then let’s have a look at who is doing the lion share of unpaid work – either caring for the aged, volunteering, domestic duties or raising children. The Human Rights Commission Elizabeth Brodderick says “Successfully balancing paid work with family responsibilities remains a major challenge for a large number of Australians. With women continuing to carry the majority of Australia’s unpaid caring work, creating workplaces that support women and men to balance paid work and share caring responsibilities is critical to achieving gender equality.”

Perhaps dear family member, before saying “you don’t see sexism” think about what you do see – and maybe ask the question “what can do I do to help?”. Your place of work might have done a pay audit and determined that there is no inequality in your work place – but that is not the norm. The wives of your sons and your grand daughter might not work for such a forward thinking employer. Your job is not to turn a blind eye to sexism and unconscious bias – but to add your masculine voice and efforts to the debate.

I have wonderful men in my life that are as deeply committed to social justice, inclusion and diversity as I am. This is a community issue for all – it’s not a women’s issue. The whole community will find a solution – I believe it. But the first thing is to see it. Ignorance is not bliss.

And PS dear Prime Minister – with 3 daughters at home…. I wonder what you will say when they do not have the same career opportunities and financial security as their male peers – and when there options are no brighter than those of women 20 years ago.

*The Male Champions of Change is a program founded in April 2010 by the Australian Human Rights commissioner; Commissioner Broderick was instrumental in bringing together some of Australia’s most influential and diverse male CEOs and Chairpersons to participate in the group. The group aims to use their individual and collective influence and commitment to ensure the issue of women’s representation in leadership is elevated on the national business agenda..

Photo: Authors own collection with the Prime Minister of Australia The Honourable Tony Abbott MP – Photo taken in 2013 prior to his election and announcement of his cabinet

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