The Federal Government has hailed the passing of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 late last week as a landmark development towards gender equality in Australian workplaces.
The government says the Act is a significant advance on its predecessor, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999, shifting the focus from equal opportunity for women to the more contemporary and relevant issue of gender equality. Reflecting this change in focus, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency will be renamed the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
“The changes will increase Australia’s productivity and improve business performance by empowering organisations to harness all of the nation’s talent,” Director of the Agency, Helen Conway, says.
Under the Act, non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees will report on actual gender equality outcomes, and provide the Workplace Gender Equality Agency with standardised data.
“This data will put Australia at the international cutting edge for analysing progress on workplace gender equality,” Conway explains. “The Agency will use the data to set industry-specific benchmarks. Employers will be able to compare their performance with others in their industry and we’ll work with organisations to develop strategies to improve their performance.
“These benchmarks will also help organisations set voluntary targets on gender equality – something I strongly encourage. As with any business initiative, the best way to drive change is to set clear objectives and reward managers for achieving them.”
Conway says 2013 will be a transitional year giving employers time to prepare for the new reporting arrangements that will be fully operational from 2014.
"There is a strong business case for gender equality but we recognise that many organisations struggle to achieve it. We are absolutely committed to working collaboratively with employers to help them bring gender equality to their workplaces. The Act will enable our Agency to measure how far Australian employers have come but, more importantly, determine where there is more work to be done.”
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