8 March 2018
Transcript - #2018013, 2018

Interview with Georgie Gardner, Today Show

Subjects: Women and leadership, sexual harassment

GEORGIE GARDNER:

Today on International Women’s Day there is still so much to be done. Half of all Australian women say that they have been sexually harassed, many of them at work, from being told to prove themselves to comments on their attire. Fewer than one third of women believe they’re treated equally in the work place. Only 11 of Australia’s top 200 companies have female CEOs – 11. And the gender pay gap is still more than 15 per cent. So joining us to discuss these shortfalls and what can be done is the Federal Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, and Dr Jackie Fairley the CEO of StarPHarma, a top 300 company that has a 59 per cent female workforce. Good morning to you both. If I could begin with you Minister, the Me Too and Times Up campaigns have definitely reignited the women’s movement haven’t they, there’s just this sentiment for change. How do we harness that and how do we ensure we get action as a result?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think, it has been very powerful using social media to shine a light on harassment, particularly sexual harassment in the workplace and I think we have seen it sweep from Hollywood now in to everyday mainstream media and the discussion is critical. What I have asked Kate Jenkins, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, to do is in her survey on sexual harassment in the workforce to increase the number of women from 2,000 to 10,000 so we really understand what is happening in our workplaces in Australia, so not in Hollywood but here in Australia and what can we do about it.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

Dr Fairley, it is still far from being an equal playing field particularly when it comes to pay and conditions at work and what women are managing on the home front – juggling so much between the two. What role do you see men playing in addressing that?

JACKIE FAIRLEY:

Look, I think it’s really important that men in all organisations embrace the need for change. I think that the male Champions for Change initiative made a huge difference to putting the number of women in management on the agenda and I think that men really do have an important role.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

They do indeed. Our Australian of the Year Michelle Simmons is a leader for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM industries and she spoke to us on the Today Show on Australia day.

MICHELLE SIMMONS:

If you like doing science, you like doing maths and coding then get in there. The field is wide open to have lots more females coming through there and you will make a difference. That diversity of voice is absolutely essential for the future success of those fields.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

My understanding, Minister, is that’s where about 75 per cent of jobs are going to be in the future – in those STEM industries. How do we get more women in to those fields?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Absolutely right. This is the big growth area and right now women are missing out on that opportunity. The Government is going to be making an announcement today, I am going to be standing next to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning when we announce an ambassador, an ambassador who will be a full time ambassador for women in science and that adds to all of the initiatives that we have currently invested in to try encourage women in to these fields of maths, science and engineering. Something that’s really close to my heart when I first came to Parliament I formed the Parliamentary Friends of Women in Maths, Science and Engineering so that we could not only shine a light on this area but so that we can actually increase the number of women who are in this area and who are doing well.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

Dr Fairley, the Government has targets of I think it is 50 per cent female appointments for Government boards. In the private sector we’re seeing many companies appointing sole token women directors. Tokenism is not the way is it?

JACKIE FAIRLEY:

No. I think the data strongly suggests that to get the benefits, and there are very significant benefits of having diversity and both diversity of gender but also other aspects of diversity, to get that you really need to have about 30 per cent. I think that you have to start somewhere but I think you need to actually keep the pressure on to get to that level.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

Because these are the decision makers ultimately.

KELLY O’DWYER:

That’s right and Julie Bishop I think said this really well when she said when she was the only women around the Cabinet table it wasn’t enough. We’ve got five women now around the Cabinet table which means that the voice is amplified. And of course there is a different perspective that is brought to that decision making and I think it’s a really powerful one and I think it’s no accident that now today I am actually a member of the Expenditure Review Committee, the committee that puts together the component parts of the budget, I’m a mother who has two children under the age of three, Michaelia Cash a former Minister for Women is also on that committee. I think it makes a real difference to the outcomes that can be delivered.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

Dr Fairley, I fear that there is a generation of women coming through who are reluctant to call themselves feminists, they somehow feel that it makes them come across as being man haters. What’s your response to that, what’s your feel?

JACKIE FAIRLEY:

Look, I have never shied away from calling myself a feminist. I think that it depends on the definition.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

What’s the definition to you?

JACKIE FAIRLEY:

Well to me it’s about equality and that’s really what you’re talking about and I think that for that it’s hard to argue against.

KELLY O’DWYER:

I agree, I think that’s right.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

Do you sense that though? There seems to be almost a little bit of a backlash?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I think possibly for older generations, perhaps, there has been a little bit of reluctance but I’ve always, like you, always been proud to call myself a feminist because I believe as you do that it’s about equality between men and women and frankly I think there are a lot of men out there who are feminists too. There are very few people who I think don’t believe that we should have equality between men and women.

JACKIE FAIRLEY:

I think the important thing is merit though and I think that’s what you really have to focus on. I think there really needs to be a merit in appointments and I think that if you don’t have that then in undermines the effect, so I think that it’s an important feature.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

But is merit tricky when ultimately it’s men making the decisions?

JACKIE FAIRLEY:

It is and that unconscious bias or conscious bias, whatever it is, I think is a key issue and that’s why you need to have women on selection committees. You need to have women on the selection lists because it is a fraught area.

KELLY O’DWYER:

And that’s why you actually need targets I think Georgie as well because there are lots of really talented women out there – I just don’t accept the argument that women are somehow less meritorious than men for a whole range of positions. We have a target of 50 per cent of women appointed to Government boards, we originally had a 40 per cent target, we exceeded that it’s now around about 44.5 per cent so we have still got a little way to go but we have made enormous progress and it’s because we have really focused on it. And there are fantastic women out there people like Jackie and others who frankly should be serving at the very highest levels.

GEORGIE GARDNER:

Well you are both walking the talk and it’s a great pleasure to have you on the program this morning. Thank you so much. And I love the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day it’s ‘Leave no women behind’ I think that says it all really doesn’t it. Enjoy the day.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Thank you.