Speech by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Speech, Launch of the Women in male-dominated industries toolkit


I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation – and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • Liz Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner
  • Professor Gillian Triggs, President, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Commissioner Susan Ryan, Age Discrimination Commissioner

I’m delighted to be here today.

Thank you for inviting me to launch this toolkit.

It is a fantastic resource that this Government was happy to contribute $50,000 towards.

We know it is money well spent.

I congratulate the Australian Human Rights Commission for driving this project.

I would also like to acknowledge the significant contribution of a great many business leaders.

It is by working together that we can best drive change.

A strong track record

It’s no secret that equality between women and men is at the heart of the Gillard Government’s commitment to building a strong economy.

We’ve made it a priority to drive legislative changes to ensure we are better equipped to address discrimination and promote gender equality into the future.

Women’s participation in the workforce is increasing, and we have record numbers of women in public and private boardrooms.

These achievements have not come easy, and I am pleased to say that this Government is not doing it alone.

Agencies like the Human Rights Commission, and the many private businesses who “get it”, are important allies in this work.

The gains this Government has made since coming to office in 2007 are many.

We are proud to have delivered far-reaching reforms to the Workplace Gender Equality Act.

The changes require employers to report on pay equity in their workplace, and to identify the flexible working practices offered to both women and men.

We know that to achieve true workplace equality, we need men to take an active role outside the workplace, and for flexibility to be a normal practice.

The National Employment Standards under the Fair Work Act also establish important principles that support gender equality.

And we have announced a number of important amendments to broaden the right to request flexible working arrangements to more workers.

We have strengthened protections against discrimination by amending the Sex Discrimination Act.

It is now unlawful to discriminate on the ground of family responsibilities for both women and men across all employment related areas, not just termination.

We have delivered Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave and the new Dad and Partner Pay schemes.

More than a quarter of a million working parents have already benefited from the Paid Parental Leave scheme since 2011.

Flexible child care

One of the greatest challenges for working parents is finding child care appropriate to their needs.

We knew, when we came to government, that affordability is one of the biggest concerns for parents.

We made childcare more affordable by increasing the Child Care Rebate from 30 to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket expenses.

We have put $22.1 billion over four years into the Child Care Rebate and the Child Care Benefit.

This funding assists some 800,000 Australian families each year.

By making childcare more affordable, we have made it possible for more women to engage in the workforce.

We know, also, that working parents can have remarkably different working patterns across different occupations and in different industries.

For this reason we are investing more than $5 million to trial new models of flexible child care that better meet the needs of modern families, particularly shift workers.

Trials will be run at 50 sites across Australia, providing overnight and weekend care, extended week day care hours, and expanded “out of school hours” care.

This trial will be complemented by a competitive grants process – $1.3 million under the Child Care Flexibility Fund – for new ideas about making our child care system as responsive as possible.

These reforms will help provide families with flexible approaches to quality, affordable and accessible child care.

Strengthening the female talent pipeline

In September last year the Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Australia’s founding membership of the Equal Futures Partnership with the United States.

The partnership was launched in New York by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It aims to expand economic opportunities for women, and to increase women’s participation in politics and civil society.

One of the three domestic initiatives that the partnership commits us to is to strengthen the pipeline of female talent in traditionally male-dominated industries.

That’s where this toolkit fits in.

It will play a vital role in helping more women have real choices about how they can participate in the nation’s economy.

Businesses and industries that have long struggled to attract and retain women in their ranks now have new ways of benefiting from women’s skills and expertise.

These are genuine, innovative strategies.

They have been compiled from the ground up, out of the day-to-day experiences of businesses that are already strengthening their female talent pipeline.

The toolkit is available online, with the facility to share more experiences about how to create more opportunities for women.

It will complement the work being undertaken by the newly renamed Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

Funding for the Agency has been almost doubled to enhance its role in supporting and advising industry.

It will provide advice, resources, and targeted assistance to employers and will have a new and unique role in developing industry-level benchmarks and industry-specific strategies.

A social and economic imperative

The Gillard Government will continue to support measures to create opportunities for women in all fields of education and employment.

We know that providing better and stronger opportunities for women in traditionally male-dominated industries is central to improving women’s economic outcomes.

We know too that improving women’s economic outcomes is good for the economy and makes sound business sense.

The smaller percentage of women in high paying jobs and the undervaluing of what is traditionally considered ‘women’s work’ both contribute to the gender pay gap.

We are still working to reduce the persistent gender wage gap that continues at around 17 per cent.

Strengthening the supply of qualified and capable women into male-dominated industries and occupations plays an important part in reducing the gender pay gap, in the long term.

It is also very clear that reducing occupational segregation will help with future skills shortages.

This Government is already investing strongly in skills development to ensure that there are new generations of skilled women in all industries.

In March 2011 the Government accepted the recommendations of the Resourcing the Future report, including the recommendation ‘to attract and retain more women in the resources and construction enterprises’.

Since then, and over the next five years, more than $15 billion will be put into vocational education and training, benefiting thousands of Australian women.

My Government colleagues and I speak frequently about our commitment to policies that allow women and men to have genuine choices in work and in life.

We know that equal access to decent and meaningful employment is central to Australia’s future as a prosperous nation.

This is about providing employers and businesses with the depth of talent needed to address skills shortages.

It is also about economic and social equity.

Something this timely toolkit will help achieve.

It is my great pleasure now to officially launch the “Women in male-dominated industries” toolkit.

Thank you.