International Women’s Day produced the usual cries for more female equality and set me thinking how well off we are in the ACT compared with other sections of Australia and most of the world.
A recent article pointed out women’s participation in the workforce nationally has grown from 43 percent in 1978 and is now at 59 percent, not far below the male rate of 70 percent. If these figures were broken down on a State and Territory basis Canberra is doing well.
I am not talking about statistics here but the public face of female employment and involvement, something the feminists ignore when they rant about the glass ceiling.
Please consider in the ACT two of our four Federal parliamentarians and 12 of our 25 Assembly members are female and that local journalists and newsreaders are similarly well-balanced. In advertising there is a preponderance of attractive women, often on TV making men look foolish or stupid, and in business, apart from many small business owners, we have numbers of females heading industry associations and organisations. Leadership roles have featured in the Assembly and the trade union movement. Permanent heads of departments and ACT government bodies, academics and school principals, health professionals and local artists and, more recently, the growth and recognition of sporting teams in football codes and cricket, joining the established well-regarded basketball, netball and such.
It is difficult to recognise inequality in this impressive list of achievers. If it existed, these successful women would not be where they are. Similarly, the glass ceiling complaint is becoming less credible because competition among females themselves has increased.
Naturally, there are still problems. Physically demanding jobs exclude women, but it should not preclude them from participation in the industry itself and this needs to be recognised. Wages are the major issue and in some jobs – childcare comes readily to mind – women are disadvantaged.
This leads to the perennial problem for women: having and managing a family.
The sad truth is that no matter how many women succeed in the competitive world, there are many, probably the majority, who are obliged to join the workforce because a dual income is the only way for the family to survive in some comfort. This is particularly true in an expensive city like Canberra. This leads to taking jobs in desperation, increased stress and often conflicts with their capacity to nurture and maintain a close and loving family unit.
The darker side of gender equality is the sexual assaults and domestic violence, which have little to do with being equal or merit or male-female wage rates. It has much to do with female naivety and male frustrations and of unrealistic expectations of “happy ever after”. Human nature is unlikely to correct such challenges without a change of attitude.