Message from the Commissioner

Victoria's first Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner is pleased to deliver 'Intersectionality at work: building a baseline on compounded gender inequality in the public sector'.

As Victoria’s first Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner, I am pleased to be delivering Intersectionality at work: building a baseline on compounded gender inequality in the Victorian public sector, a companion to the Commission’s 2021 Baseline report. In this report, we have analysed intersectional workforce and survey data from across the Victorian public sector, and drawn on research funded by the Commission, to provide an overview of the state and nature of intersectional workplace gender inequality in Victoria.

For the first time in 2021, almost 300 organisations covered by the Gender Equality Act 2020 (Vic) collected and submitted intersectional workforce and employee experience survey data to the Commission. As with many firsts, when defined entities submitted their intersectional data, the Commission found significant data gaps and inconsistencies in the way this data was collected and provided. This made it difficult to collate and analyse the data accurately and meaningfully. As a result, in our Baseline report we committed to funding a suite of intersectional research and to taking the additional time needed for the more complicated data analysis required, with the goal of releasing this companion report in 2023.

I want to thank all the staff who supported their organisations to prepare and submit this data, as well as the researchers who have played a key role in helping the Commission to build a foundational evidence base of intersectional insights. The collection and analysis of this data marks a crucial and long overdue shift in the maturity of how we understand gender inequality. This report shows that compounding forms of discrimination have notable impacts on career progression, pay inequality, and the experience of sexual harassment and discrimination at work. As such, an intersectional approach to gender equality is no longer a nice to have, it’s a must have – without it, our work will continue to reproduce some of the very patterns of inequality we seek to address.

Research we commissioned in 2021 and 2022 found that despite the existence of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives across the Victorian public sector, women facing intersecting forms of discrimination continue to experience disproportionate levels of workplace discrimination. When data on intersectional attributes is collected, these experiences become visible. The use of an intersectional lens in data collection, analysis and interpretation will help us to identify the unique barriers marginalised people face in the workplace. This will, in turn, help us curate impactful, tailored solutions to these issues.

There are significant improvements that need to be made at an organisational level to create a culture of safety across workplaces, so staff feel comfortable sharing intersectional data. Findings from our 2021 and 2022 research grants show that reports of discrimination and harassment are not being properly addressed at the managerial level. Intersectional gender inequality is everyone’s business, and senior leaders in particular, have a positive duty and responsibility to ensure that workplaces take action to achieve gender equality from the top-down. Leaders must actively model, prioritise and drive a culture of safety in their organisation and ensure accountability and buy-in from middle managers. Without this, DEI initiatives will fail to challenge structural inequalities, as staff are expected to assimilate into the existing status-quo.

I want to recognise the effort that has gone into creating this report – the first of its kind in Australia to collate and analyse intersectional public sector workforce data. While there is still much progress to be made, I am confident that Victoria will continue to lead by example in addressing the overlapping systemic and structural drivers of gender inequality within the workforce, inspiring other jurisdictions to do the same.

Dr Niki Vincent
Public Sector Gender Equality Commissioner