Women of Australia, this is our time to speak up

The G20 bought about some important discussions – climate change, healthcare, education, defence, welfare and less covered in the media, gender equality. The G20 leaders actually committed to reducing the gap between male and female workforce participation rates by 25%.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon highlighted the huge role female workforce participation can play in promoting global growth and a report created for the summit by the OECF, ILO, World Bank and IMF supported this. It is believed that just a 6% increase in female workforce participation would correlate to an increase of about $25 billion to the Australia Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It makes a sense to increase female workforce participation, but we need to sit back and ask the question, why aren’t more of us working? What are the things really stopping us? When we were growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to have a full time stay-at-home Mum and a working Dad. But as a nation we have moved past that. In fact, now most mothers and women are working because they quite simply have no other choice in order to financially get by.

When we were coming through, the workplace wasn’t a female friendly place. I think back to my early days in the typing pool and I think of the smokey offices, the snide remarks to myself and the other “office girls” as well as the crude talk. It was very much a man’s world – but thanks to harassment laws there is no more of that.

Yes we have maternity leave and yes many women still want to remain out of the workforce for the first few years of motherhood, but surely this can’t make up the current workforce participation gap. It is more common for women to retire earlier as many of you reading this will know, but surely this doesn’t make up a huge portion of the gap either.

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So why aren’t we working? Furthermore, what will really help women to get into the workforce? We have so many generations of young women who are education, motivated and inspired who want to work – so what can we do to help them? We went through it all, the times when it was bad to the times when we had the protection of anti-harassment policies and legal protection. And it is our stories, our own feelings and experiences that could hold the clues to creating a working culture in Australia.

Today we want to know what your experience in and out of the workforce has been like… What encouraged you to work? What did the opposite? What were the best working environments and what were the worst? What would you like to see future generations of women have to support them through employment?