Victorians called on the Victorian Government to use its power and influence to lay the foundation for gender equality. In the first years of the Strategy we will learn from and apply the lessons of other progressive jurisdictions—drawing on all the levers of Government to deliver necessary change.
It would be hard to find a country in the world that has successfully tackled entrenched gender inequality without any constitutional or legal reform.
- UN Women
We will start with strong governance embedded in legislation
Countries with the highest rates of gender equality have established strong gender equality governance structures such as dedicated agencies with responsibility for advising government, co-ordinating and monitoring progress towards gender equality and the prevention of violence against women.
Similarly, laws that establish equal rights and challenge the status quo, provide an important means to demand and achieve gender equality in practice. Laws can also influence social norms, cultural expectations and popular attitudes, as well as policy shifts.
That is why we will create a Prevention Agency with dedicated funding and a Gender Equality Act.
What works: The value of gender equality legislation in the Nordic countries
Iceland—the top ranked country on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index—has had a Gender Equality Act since the 1970s.
The current 2008 act includes commitments to: gender analysis in policy and budgets; gender equality education in early childhood, school and tertiary settings; quotas and targets; work against pay discrimination, violence and sexual harassment; strategies to enable women and men to reconcile work and family life and challenge gender role stereotypes.
We will use our purchasing and funding power
Each year, the Victorian Government provides $2 billion of funding support to the not-for-profit (NFP) sector and spends over $10 billion on a variety of goods and services from the private sector. Lessons from other jurisdictions show that the Victorian Government can leverage this position:
- encourage suppliers, contracted organisations and funded agencies to become 'gender equality promoting employers'
- embed gender equality goals in the subject of a contract
- support women owned businesses.
What works: National Procurement Policy Switzerland
In Switzerland, the Federal Equal Opportunities Office has included the principle of equal pay for men and women in the national legislation on public procurement contracts. Companies must sign a declaration stating that they apply the principle of gender equal pay, with those unable to give this guarantee excluded from public procurement. Companies may be subject to independent auditing to assess their compliance.
We will put a gender lens on policies, budgets and economic planning
Governments internationally are already embedding gender considerations into budgets, legislation, public policy and planning.
Gender impact analysis considers the implications of a policy in terms of resource distribution; distribution of paid and unpaid work; the adequacy of a policy to meet the different needs of women, men and trans and gender diverse people; and how the policy might affect gender norms and roles.
What works: British Columbia gender impact analysis
British Columbia has developed an integrated program for gender equality in government. Each new policy, program and legislative proposal for Cabinet consideration must include an analysis of the differential impacts on women and men and of whether the policy recommendation supports equality for women. A tangible example is Highway Constructors Limited.
An equity component was built into large infrastructure projects to ensure that women and other equity groups received their share of employment and training opportunities. Equity initiatives on the highway project included active recruitment from the communities along the highway; provision of education and awareness-raising regarding equity, diversity and harassment; training for equity groups and welfare recipients for jobs on the project in the areas of labouring, heavy equipment operations and truck driving; training support such as upgrading or life skills and workplace training and support.
At project inception, it was estimated that women comprised less than 1% of those working in construction occupations. Between July 1994 and March 1999, 15% of total workers hired were from one of the equity groups (women – 6%; First Nations people – 7%; visible minorities – 2%; and people with a disability – 1%).
Gender responsive budgeting (GRB) reviews and adapts budgetary processes and policies so that expenditures and revenues reflect gender differences and gender inequalities in income, assets, decision-making power, service needs and responsibilities for caring. GRB has been used to good effect internationally:
- in Morocco GRB is being used to address women’s poverty and exclusion
- in India and Mexico, GRB has led to changes in fiscal policies in areas like education, health and infrastructure, and has contributed to the achievement of gender-oriented goals
- in Austria and Ecuador, GRB has led to improved systems of accountability for public spending for gender-oriented purposes.
A number of jurisdictions are also developing broader models of the economy to complement Gross State Product (GSP). These models look to balance economic and social considerations— acknowledging the value and costs of unpaid work, income inequality and underemployment.
What works: Maryland Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI)
Maryland applies the GPI which provides a more complete picture of economic and social progress. It accounts for non-market benefits from the economy, environment and society not included in GSP and identifies and deducts costs such as environmental degradation and poor health. The measurement offers a clearer picture of the costs and benefits of the state’s economic activity.
In Maryland the GPI is already telling a very different story about the connection between economic growth and quality of life. By the early 1980s, Maryland’s GSP no longer reflected an increase in genuine progress. By 2000, GSP estimates were nearly 50% higher than that reported by the GPI.
The GPI is also accompanied by a calculator enabling the economic and social impact of indicators - such as reducing time on unpaid work or income inequality – to be assessed.
Progressive jurisdictions are also creating the business case for employers to sponsor child care, provide a childcare allowance or offer secure and flexible work arrangements.
We will look at our public sector employment practices
With 285,692 staff (9% of Victoria’s total workforce) spread across the Victorian Public Service, public authorities, health care services, schools, TAFE Institutes, police and emergency services organisations, water and land management agencies, the public sector is well placed to set an example to the whole Victorian workforce.
Many are using gender auditing to identify how factors like culture, policies, systems and practices promote or work against workplace gender equality.
What works: The EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) certification standard
The EDGE measures commitment to gender equality in five related areas through data analysis, document analysis, staff surveys and staff engagement: equal pay for equivalent work; recruitment and promotion; leadership development training and mentoring; flexible working; and organisational culture.
Organisations then benchmark themselves against the EDGE Standard and peer organisations, with the benchmark serving as the basis for an action plan. After a successful independent audit by a third-party certification body, the organisation receives the EDGE Certification Seal.
EDGE certified organisations include the World Bank, Ikea, L’Oreal, AXA insurance and SAP.
Creating flexible work arrangements can also add value. UK research suggests that two-thirds of people who are unemployed, retired, are carers, or have a disability or long-term illness would be inclined to start working if suitable flexible work were available.
Paid parental leave is also becoming an increasing consideration. Such policies can support a more rapid return to work among mothers, help shift gender norms and support women’s longer term economic security. In Australia a growing number of private companies are assessing the feasibility of providing parents with an entitlement to extended non-transferable paid parental leave, which can be used to provide primary care to that person’s child at any time within the child’s first two years.
We will be advocates
The Commonwealth has significant responsibilities from childcare subsidies, to managing income tax and benefits, superannuation and spending in aged care and education.
There are opportunities for change in each of these areas to promote gender equality, which we will pursue through advocacy via the Council of Australian Governments.