Gender Equality: More than wages

21 November, 2022

It was well said, and I congratulate the member on her contribution. I can only go on my own experience as an employer of women over a long period of time. Most staff in my businesses were women. We had to be as flexible as possible within our community. The experience of my own family and the flexibility needed for them to contribute to our business as well was transferred immediately to the employees. If they needed to get their kids to school but also wanted to be home when they arrived home from school, their hours were reflected within the business of that operation. I don't think I was the only business to approach work that way, but we didn't have the facilities of child care and family day care in those days. I'm talking 40 years ago. For 40 years we've been grappling with these issues of inequality. Of course it's important to address gender inequality. I believe that the Labor government is putting a whole lot of work into that area to make a difference long term. When addressing these issues in the past, governments have tried to make a difference long term, but there are some entrenched longstanding cultural barriers. This issue is far more complicated than some of the presentations that have been made around the issue that it's a simple, easy job to make the change. These problems include discrimination related to pregnancy and parental leave, especially mothers returning to the workforce after parental leave. I've even heard claims of women being more fearful of returning to work as a so-called part-time mum than they were the birth. And some of the distressing stories I've heard from these women back that up.

The OECD has acknowledged that a lack of support for motherhood is hurting women's career prospects. My inspiration has always been around the whole family, not just the mum. How do we support the whole family so that the mother involved in that situation is able to contribute in the way that she wants to contribute, not the way that we want to tell her how to contribute? In other words, I'm not demanding that people go back to work to have some substance within communities. One of our former speakers chose to look after her twin sons, to leave a legal practice and work on bringing up her two boys, who are now 16 years of age. She thinks it's all over at about 16. I can tell her, no, it's only just beginning. My twins are now 44 years of age, around there somewhere. I'm not saying there are still issues—they're wonderful boys—but kids never leave you; they're there for life.

I want to acknowledge that families play a major role in the contribution their mum can make to community. My point is that they can make that contribution however they like. If we can find ways for women to have more flexibility in the workplace, that's a role that government can take on to make it easier for women to contribute. While having regard for their special circumstances, government can find new innovative ways to make sure they have the opportunity not only to contribute but to contribute on an equal level to anybody else. On top of that, we have a growing cohort of homeless women over the age of 55. In fact, I could now say over the age of 50. Therefore, as a very wealthy community with ample opportunity to make a difference, we in this place need to look at that cohort of women and say in this term, before these members of parliament finish their term, that there won't be that gender inequality and there won't be people who are missing out and unable to look after themselves in their later years—not that 55 is 'later years'! I'm just saying that here's a contribution that we could be making very solidly and very forcefully and having regard to that. And I do congratulate the diversity of the parliament, which has changed so dramatically since I was first a member in 1990.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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