Message from the Commissioner
As Victoria’s inaugural Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner, I am pleased to be delivering this report analysing the Commission’s workplace gender equality data. Data was collected for the first time in late 2021 from almost 300 organisations covered by the Gender Equality Act 2020. This Baseline report provides a sector-wide overview of the state and nature of workplace gender inequality and will serve as the starting point against which to measure future progress.
I want to commend the hard work of all the staff who supported their organisations to meet their obligations under the Act, as well as my own small (but mighty) team at the Commission. The collection and analysis of this data represents a significant milestone in gender equality reporting in Australia; one that was achieved while also contending with the challenges and uncertainty brought about by COVID-19. The pandemic disrupted the implementation of the Act in many ways. At the same time, it widened the national gender pay gap and reversed or stalled progress made towards gender equality on several fronts. Therefore, it is more important than ever that we keep driving action to promote gender equality.
As in any new process, there is significant learning to be incorporated into future workplace audit reporting rounds to improve clarity, efficiency, and impact. In particular, there is work to be done to better understand and address how other forms of disadvantage and discrimination intersect with gender inequality. My team and I are committed to building this evidence base and capability. To support this, we will release a separate report in early 2023, which will present intersectional insights from the audit data, along with insights and recommendations from the intersectional research we have commissioned this year.
There are also improvements to be made in terms of resourcing the work required to meet the obligations under the Act. A study we commissioned in 2021 found that many entities had delegated the audit and planning work to women at lower levels of their organisations who were employed on a temporary basis, with little consideration of ongoing resources to support implementation. I acknowledge that many organisations were operating in a challenging environment and that there are always lessons learnt the first time such ambitious work is undertaken. However, the Act requires that organisations ensure adequate resourcing is set aside to implement the obligations, including to demonstrate the ‘reasonable and material’ progress that is required every 2 years.
We’re at a critical juncture for gender equality in Australia. Yet, there is a lot to be optimistic about. This baseline report shows that organisations covered by the Act are performing well in comparison to the private sector across many gender equality outcomes, and while there is still much progress to be made, it is very clear that there is a real appetite for change. In this first cycle of reporting, defined entities have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to progressing gender equality, with many engaging passionately with me and my team to ensure they achieve the best gender equality outcomes possible.
I want to acknowledge all the work that has been done to get us to the point where we now have this nation-leading baseline data. I am confident that Victoria will continue to lead by example in addressing the systemic drivers of gender inequality within the workforce, and in inspiring other jurisdictions on the road towards gender equality in their organisations and communities.
I look forward to continuing to work with organisations to assist them in driving meaningful progress toward workplace gender equality.
Dr Niki Vincent
Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner
Reviewed 31 October 2022