We are here and ready for a new world of work!
We offer flexibility, we have great policies supporting new ways of working, we even bring our dogs into work – we are set up to make this happen! We have more data than what we know what to do with. We’re in a new world. A world where flexibility is the norm.
But is it?
We are off to a good start – women make up almost half the workforce (46.9%)
Women graduate from year 12, undergraduate and post graduate degrees at a higher rate than men.
Once they get to the workforce, women represent 17.1% of CEOs and 30.5% of key management personnel and at Board level, women hold 29.7% of directorships and 13.7% of chair positions. In 2018, 45% of new appointments to ASX 200 orgs went to women.
Our pay gap is still sitting at 14.1%, however the data shows that it appears to be closing, albeit at a snail pace.
There is a whopping 42% difference in superannuation balances at retirement age between men and women.
Research supports that women are still taking on most caring responsibilities and domestic work outside of paid employment.
So there is a heap of data that shows some movement, but the movement is not commensurate with the effort.
We have made some dents in achieving gender equality and we are thankful to all those that have come before us and their significant efforts in achieving change.
It feels that we all want the change, the equality, the reduction of what can feel like the burden of “having it all”, but it also feels like it’s moving 1000 titanic ships with a dingy boat.
I, and I’m sure others question why further change has not been achieved, given the efforts.
In the research I have done, despite the many changes occurring in support of increasing female representation at work, and the rise of the gig worker and seeking new ways of working, we still find ourselves asking, why are we struggling with the way we currently work?
We’re making changes but we are not looking seriously enough in organisations at the system of work. How we work, where and when we work and measures of productivity. Presenteeism is still prevalent. Job share and part-time opportunities occur at lower levels, but hardly at the senior roles. How do we expect women to take on senior roles when conditions are not conducive to them doing so?
We need to understand why women don’t think that they can access the roles they may have been aspiring to for years. Why are some women inclined to steer away from a career path because a different one is perceived to be easier for them to manage from a lifestyle perspective? Why can’t we access flexibility and have a senior role in a large organisation? Why do some women leave the workforce temporarily to have a family but never return to the senior roles they left?
People are looking for something different. An opportunity for them to take real control of their futures. If the system of work doesn’t change to meet our needs, people are finding alternatives.
Despite the many changes, organisations haven’t changed the way work is done at senior levels. There are very few if any examples of senior female leaders that have careers and attend to their personal priorities. It’s almost always one or the other. Unless the way we work changes, we will continue to see very little change in the representation of females in senior roles.
The case for change is evident.
36% of all U.S. workers participate in the gig economy in some capacity, including part timers and multiple job holders. Here in Australia, the figure of those working in the gig economy is sitting at approx. 19.5%, with 2.5 million working this way out of a total workforce of just over 12.8m. That figure is set to rise.
We are seeing a significant shift towards people wanting to be self-employed, wanting to leave organisations that are not aligned to their values and ways of working, and the rise of organisations creating fulfilment through work and life on a deeper level.
The future of work isn’t just about big tech implementations or robots taking jobs, it’s about understanding that we need to focus on people. Their experiences, their sense of worth and value, and what they give and take to the employment relationship.
I think across all industries, we need to think differently by spending more time conceptualising possibilities, seeking out divergent views, and embracing complexity, and less time formulating specific strategies and plans. We need to act differently by saying yes more than we say no. Saying yes, comes with the responsibility of working out how to change something. Saying no is easy.
If we really change the system of work, we will see a greater gender balance in senior roles across all industries in our country, we will achieve gender parity and we will increase the respect for women in our society. We will also have a workforce where people are genuinely fulfilled because they work in a way that respects their humanness and enables them to fulfill all aspects of their lives.