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Gender segregation in the workplace and its impact on women’s economic equality

Sex Discrimination

Australian Human Rights Commission Submission to the Finance and Public Administration References Committee

6 March 2017

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1 Introduction

  1. The Commission welcomes this inquiry. The Commission contends that reducing gender segregation in workplaces will have significant benefits for Australia. Gender-balanced workplaces will benefit workers, families, organisations and the economy.
  2. In recent years, many initiatives have been directed towards developing the pipeline for recruitment, women’s development programs, mentoring women on how to survive and ‘get ahead in a male-dominated world’. However, little has been done to disrupt the systems and practices of that world, or to engage a wider audience of the workforce, so that long term systemic change can happen.
  3. The Commission has investigated and reported a number of times previously on the causes and impacts of women’s inequality in the workforce and in economic life more broadly.
  4. The causal link between gender segregation in the workplace and low economic security over a woman’s lifetime is clear from those reports, and many other reports from experts in this area.
  5. A central theme from these reports, and from recent studies around the world, is that addressing the gender pay gap is not just about equal entitlements, but also about equal gender representation throughout the workforce – in all industries, occupations and roles.
  6. In this submission we refer to gender segregation in the workplace by reference to
    1. gender segregation by industry: male dominated industries include construction, mining, utilities and several more; female dominated industries are education and training, and health care and social assistance.
    2. gender segregation by occupation: for example, men dominate the occupations of Machinery Operators and Drivers, Technicians and Trade Workers, Labourers, while women dominate the occupations of: Clerical and Administrative Workers, and Community and Personal Service Workers.
    3. gender segregation by role within organisations: refers to the fact that men hold the majority of leadership roles across all industries; while women dominate part time work.[1]
  7. Importantly, unpaid caring work is very much an ‘industry’ and a ‘workplace’ within this analysis.
  8. This submission refers to some findings from previous studies and reports, as they relate to the Commission’s contentions and recommendations with respect to this inquiry.
  9. However, the Commission’s recommendations in this submission are confined to areas of action that may be undertaken immediately, and where the Commission believes it may, in a tangible way, assist government and business to address the impact of workplace gender segregation.


[1] WGEA fact sheet…