Concluding comments and next steps

This report represents a crucial first step towards understanding and addressing complex inequalities in Victorian workplaces. Each chapter draws attention to how gender inequality is compounded by another form of discrimination for Victorian public sector workers. The chapters begin by outlining key barriers to equality for each group, before presenting a summary of insights from the Commission’s Research Grants Round 2022 or related Victorian Government initiatives. They also present key findings from the Commission’s inaugural workplace gender audit data collected under the Gender Equality Act 2020 (Vic) (the Act) in 2021. The Recommendations chapter provides defined entities with advice for how to improve intersectional data collection practices and data quality in future workplace gender audits. The recommendations may also support a broader range of organisations to improve data collection from, and understanding of, diverse groups of employees.

This report represents several ‘firsts’. For many organisations, this is the first time they have had to collect and report on workforce data about many of the attributes listed in the Act (Aboriginality, age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, and sexual orientation). Understandably, there remains work to do to build the systems to collect and store this data, to build employee trust around data collection and management, and to fill the gaps in data available. Without accurate and meaningful data about how different forms of inequality intersect to shape the working lives of employees, barriers to equality cannot be addressed.

This is also the first time the Commission has attempted to analyse data pertaining to intersectional gender equality. As noted in several places throughout this report, doing so is complex. Applying an intersectional lens to data analysis and interpretation means balancing the need to provide accurate representations of complex lives with the need to identify broad patterns of systemic inequality. The Commission is committed to continuous improvement in future intersectional analyses.

Improving data collection and data quality

In addition to reporting on the Commission’s intersectional data from the inaugural workplace gender audit under the Act, this report has also provided defined entities and broader organisations with an overview of approaches that could be used to improve future data collection initiatives. In the Recommendations chapter, the Commission discussed the importance of setting your organisation up for success in collecting, analysing and interpreting intersectional data. This involved developing and communicating a shared understanding of intersectionality, as well as engaging diverse voices in a respectful manner to avoid burdening employees with additional unpaid or unrecognised labour. By meaningfully engaging diverse voices, organisations can ensure their change-making initiatives are reflective of, and remain relevant to, the lived experiences of employees who suffer disadvantage and discrimination.

It is important for organisations to update employee management systems to ensure they are equipped to collect both demographic data as well as data points related to the 7 Workplace gender equality indicators under the Act. Building trust and accountability in relation to data collection and storage is also crucial to ensure employees feel comfortable disclosing their personal information. Demonstrating your organisation’s commitment to intersectional gender equality, for example by working to meaningfully address any inequalities revealed through the collection of employee data, can help to reassure employees about the integrity of this process.

Once data collection is complete, organisations then need to analyse and interpret their data through an intersectional lens. These two steps should involve consultation with employees with lived experience of disadvantage and discrimination in your workplace to maximise your ability to use the data to create positive change in your organisation. Analysis and interpretation may also require some creative thinking. For instance, trends related to intersectional gender equality will not be visible when data is analysed by only one attribute in isolation, for example just looking at gender, LGBTIQ+ status, or cultural background. The type of intersectional analysis you undertake, and the attributes that you combine in your analysis, should be specific to the context of your organisation. In other words, you should consider the demographics of your employees and the community in which you work to decide which types of analyses to focus on. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to intersectional workforce data analysis. Rather, organisations should attempt to analyse their data in diverse combinations to try to uncover any existing patterns of inequality.

Any patterns of disadvantage uncovered by this process will require targeted structural change. An organisation’s progress towards intersectional gender equality can be evaluated through future iterations of data collection and reporting under the Act, as well as internal monitoring and evaluation processes.

Where are we now?

As this report is being released, defined entities with reporting obligations under the Act are preparing to report for the first time on their progress in advancing gender equality. Progress reports will require defined entities to:

  • collect updated data as part of a progress audit
  • report on gender impact assessments conducted on all new or renewing programs, policies or services with a direct and significant impact on the public
  • report on their progress in implementing their Gender Equality Action Plans
  • demonstrate their progress in relation to the 7 workplace gender equality indicators.

The first progress reports submitted under the Act will be the culmination of work by both the Commission and defined entities to drive intersectional gender equality in Victorian public sector organisations and the communities they serve.

As explored within this report, considering intersecting experiences is vital when discussing gender equality. For many, the gendered impacts of navigating the workplace do not occur in isolation. By highlighting common experiences and barriers faced by those experiencing intersecting forms of inequality, this report deepens our understanding of workplace disadvantage and discrimination. In doing so, it provides important context which will support defined entities in their journey to address gender inequality. By opening up these conversations and supplying robust data and analysis, the Commission seeks to inspire defined entities and other jurisdictions to drive intersectional gender equality. It also seeks to grow the ability of organisations and data collection agencies to collect data about people of all genders, including those outside the binary.

Intersectional analysis is crucial for moving towards positive change

The Act represents an ambitious step up in equality law in Australia. It is the first piece of Australian legislation to officially acknowledge intersectionality, embedding the consideration of intersectionality throughout each of its reporting obligations. While intersectional approaches to data collection, research and workplace equality initiatives are still being refined, the hard work of defined entities has allowed the Commission to collect the most comprehensive dataset relating to intersectional gender inequality in public sector organisations in Australia. Collecting, analysing and presenting this data helps us to understand the state and nature of intersectional gender inequality in Victorian public sector organisations, universities and local councils. Only by understanding our current state can we make positive change. By doing so, Victoria can carve a path for other jurisdictions to similarly drive intersectional gender equality in their organisations and communities.