Equal opportunity for women

What is EO for women in the workplace?

The term 'Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace' is used to describe programs and strategies aimed at gaining equality for women in the workplace. It is about ensuring that all employees are treated with fairness and respect, given promotion and access to opportunities on the basis of merit and are not subject to discrimination or harassment in the workplace.

Equal Opportunity is not about quotas. It is not about discrimination to favour women.

Currently women do not have equality in the workforce. Policy changes and innovative programs have not yet produced the extent of cultural change required; informal values and expectations change very slowly. Research indicates it is not the qualifications, experience or abilities of women but the culture of organisations, the attitudes, values and assumptions about women, which limit women's promotion and the attainment of equality.

Whilst there has been progress in universities towards gender equality – there is more to be done, and this has been a focus of Universities Australia (previously the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee) since the late 1990's.

The current Universities Australia Strategy for Women: 2011-2014 (pdf, 124kb) on the Universities Australia website states:

In 2004, 28% (or 11 of 39) of Vice-Chancellors were women, 26% of Deputy Vice-Chancellors were women and 39% of senior administrative staff (>HEW 10) were women. In late 2009, 18% (or 7 of 39) of Vice-Chancellors were women, 34% of Deputy Vice-Chancellors were women and just on 40% of senior administrative staff were women. Progress has been made but it is slow and not evenly distributed. Just as with our students, there are distinct patterns of clustering of women in certain administrative portfolios and academic disciplines as well as certain leadership roles (Bell 2009).

There are compelling productivity, governance and social justice reasons for Universities Australia to continue to pursue its focus on achieving gender equality at all levels and addressing persistent patterns of gender inequality.

The broader policy context for EO for women comes through the Federal Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Act) which replaced the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999. The new legislation aims to improve and promote equality for both women and men in the workplace.

The principal objects of the Act are to:

  • promote and improve gender equality (including equal remuneration between women and men) in employment and in the workplace 
  • support employers to remove barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce, in recognition of the disadvantaged position of women in relation to employment matters
  • promote, amongst employers, the elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender in relation to employment matters (including in relation to family and caring responsibilities)
  • foster workplace consultation between employers and employees on issues concerning gender equality in employment and in the workplace
  • improve the productivity and competitiveness of Australian business through the advancement of gender equality in employment and in the workplace.

EO for women in the workplace at FedUni

The Federal Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 requires that FedUni (as an employer with over 100 employees) to report annually to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA). The University is required to report against a set of six gender equality indicators:

  • Gender composition of the workforce
  • Gender composition of governing bodies
  • Equal remuneration between women and men
  • Flexible working arrangements
  • Consultation with employees about gender equality
  • Any other matters specified by the Minister, including sex-based harassment and discrimination

Find out more about WGEA & the Workplace Gender Equality Act at the Workplace Gender Equality Agency website.

To see data on FedUni's employment profile and a range of aspects by gender (eg use of entitlements, promotion, separations, reclassifications) view our annual reports and plans under both the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace and Workplace Gender Equality Agency.