Gender Equality


Workplace gender equality is achieved when people are able to access and enjoy the same rewards, resources and opportunities regardless of gender. Despite there being progress in recent years, the gender gap in the Australian workforce is still prevalent. Women continue to earn less than men, are less likely to advance their careers as far as men and accumulate less retirement or superannuation savings.

Alternately, men have had less access to family-friendly policies such as parental leave and flexible working arrangements than women.

The aim of gender equality in the workplace is to achieve broadly equal outcomes for everyone, regardless of gender, where all can achieve their ambitions, experience gender-balanced leadership and value everyone’s contributions equally.

The Department is committed to ensuring gender equality by:

  • challenging conscious and unconscious bias
  • removal of barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce
  • access to all occupations including leadership roles, regardless of gender
  • elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender, particularly in relation to family and caring responsibilities
  • flexible working arrangements for employees experiencing or caring for someone experiencing family violence

Some ongoing and planned initiatives promoting gender equality in the Department’s workplaces include:

  • raising awareness of the importance of gender equality through communication channels and events such as International Women’s Day and promoting intersectionality in other events
  • offering employees programs that focus on gender equality such as Workplace Equality and Respect training and the Parental Support Program Pilot
  • monitoring and tracking the Department’s workforce gender profile in order to measure progress against whole-of-government gender equality initiatives such as a 50/50 gender target at Executive Officer level

Gender equality and family violence

Gender equality has a strong relationship with a range of types of violence, especially sexual violence and family violence. These forms of violence are generally considered inherently gendered due to the overwhelming perpetration of the violence by men towards women and children throughout the world. When addressing gender equality, we must also be cognisant of this interrelated relationship and ensure that our actions to address gender equalities also address this treatment of women.

Legislative and policy framework

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)External Link protects people from unfair treatment on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy and breastfeeding. It also protects workers with family responsibilities and makes sexual harassment against the law.

The Gender Equality Act 2020 (Vic)External Link aims to improve workplace gender equality across the Victorian public sector, universities and local councils. It will also lead to better results for the Victorian community through improved policies, programs and services. Gender equality benefits people of all genders. The Act aims to level the playing field so that Victorians can have equal rights, opportunities, responsibilities and outcomes.

The Victorian Government has made gender equality a priority with the publication of Safe and strong: A Victorian Gender Equality StrategyExternal Link which aims to change stereotyped attitudes towards women, contribute to the prevention of family violence and work towards gender equality.

The Free from Violence: Victoria’s Strategy to Prevent Family ViolenceExternal Link is Victoria’s plan to break the cycle of family violence and violence against women. Primary prevention requires social and cultural change. Everyone has a role to in play in challenging the drivers of violence where they live, work, learn and play. Preventing violence before it starts reduces pressure on early intervention and crisis response.

What does discrimination look like?

Discrimination based on gender does still occur. It can be overt or subtle, and could include the following:

  • not hiring a person because the employer thinks they may not fit into a ‘traditionally male/female’ workplace
  • not being hired, or being given a lower-paying position because gender (for example, when an employer refuses to hire women, or only hires women for certain jobs)
  • having a gender pay gap, or not providing the same opportunities for training, mentoring or promotion to all employees, regardless of gender
  • allocating work tasks based on a person’s gender
  • being held to different or higher standards, or being evaluated more harshly, because of gender, or because they don’t act or present themselves in a way that conforms to traditional ideas of femininity or masculinity. For example, if a worker who identifies as a woman receives a negative performance evaluation that criticises her for being too 'aggressive' (while men who behave the same way are praised for showing 'leadership'), or if she wears her hair short and is told she needs to be more 'presentable,' she may be experiencing discrimination based on sex stereotypes, which is a form of gender discrimination
  • being insulted, called derogatory names or slurs because of gender, or hearing hostile remarks about people of a certain gender identity
  • being intentionally or repeatedly called by a name or referred to as a different gender that they don’t identify with — as when a transgender man is called by his former (female-associated) name or referred to as 'Miss'
  • being subject to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature
  • being rejected for a job, forced out on leave, or given fewer assignments because they are pregnant

Fostering inclusion

All employees can show their support and foster an inclusive culture in a number of ways to support gender equality. Some suggestions include:

Attend training, events and social activities that support gender equality

Educate yourself on the topics such as unconscious bias and stereotyping, celebrate events such as International Women’s Day, and volunteer in projects fostering empowerment of women or gender equality in the workplace and our society.

Use gender-inclusive language

Try replacing masculine pronouns, with non-gender specific words and don’t be afraid to correct those around you. Pay attention to expressions that are often used about individuals of a specific gender but not others.

Listen and ensure everyone’s voice is heard

Don’t judge anyone by gender and support creating a safe space for everyone to voice their ideas or concerns. Give credit and recognise the contribution.

Aim for balance

When forming project or collaboration teams, interview panels and working groups, conferences or speaking events, aim to have a gender balance.

Avoid stereotypes

It is important to avoid stereotypes based on gender. A person’s gender identity is an important part of but does not define who they are.

Support equal access

Promote and facilitate equal access to flexible working arrangements and parental leave for all employees regardless of their gender.

Learn more about gender equality

For more actions and learning resources to create a more inclusive culture in the workplace, see the Gender equality pageExternal Link (login required) of the Workforce Diversity and Inclusion site.

Further assistance

Chapter of the Inclusive Workplaces Guide on Gender Equality

Reviewed 14 January 2021

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