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A slow and unfinished revolution for working women

19 Oct 2009

Australia is now a society where men and women are in the workforce in roughly equal proportions, but despite some advances, they are still working under unequal conditions.

Part of a series being held around the country, A Slow (and Unfinished) Revolution: Maternity Leave, Women and Work, will review the 30-year journey from the first unpaid maternity leave decision of the Industrial Relations Commission to the government's announcement of a national system of paid parental leave on Mother's Day this year.

Associate Professor Baird argues that there is much more to be done to achieve a "genuine rights-based approach to equitable opportunity and outcomes."

"Reviews on equal pay, child care provision, the Sex Discrimination Act, Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace and the taxation system are all either currently underway or the findings are awaited. Changes are essential across all these areas," she said.

"A coherent policy approach should be adopted by government to remove overt and covert discrimination against women and mothers and to improve conditions for men's leave taking from work.

"The opportunity is there for government to take leadership on making the dual earner / dual carer role available to men and women in such a way that real change happens - so that policies and practices do genuinely alter."

The Clare Burton Memorial series begins in Perth on 16 October, with subsequent dates in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide. 

Marian Baird is Associate Professor in Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney and Director of the Women and Work Research Group. Her research has focused on the impact of regulatory and policy environments on women's working lives and conditions. Based on her research, Marian has most recently been a key advocate of paid maternity leave in Australia. She has also published on the impact of regulation on low paid women and the changes to Australia's industrial relations regime.