Parkes Champion-Post

Social change is the keyAdvertising Feature

CHANGE IS IN THE WIND: The ANU's Professor Michelle Ryan believes unless we couple organisational change with broader social change, we will never achieve true equality. Photo: Supplied

Issues of equality are faced by women 365 days a year, but having a single day dedicated to amplifying women's voices, understanding existing inequality, and calling for real and lasting change is important.

"It gives a platform to shine a spotlight on ongoing initiatives for change," Professor Michelle Ryan, director of the Global Institute for Women's Leadership, at the The Australian National University, and Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology said.

"We have made great strides in progress towards gender equality, but it is important to note that the pace of change varies greatly across countries, and not all women have benefited equally from these changes.

"So, the nature of remaining inequalities, and the priorities for International Women's Day, look different across nations, and across communities within nations.

"This may be in terms of who is most affected by gender pay gaps - the size of the pay gap for instance differs greatly across countries - it is as low as 3 per cent in Bulgaria, 14 per cent in Australia, and up to 31 per cent in South Korea," Michelle adds.

While women have the technical right to vote in almost all countries (with Saudi Aria and Kuwait most recently joining the list) in practice, who is practically able to vote varies enormously - whether this is due to geography, race, or disability. When questioned about what she sees as one of the most pressing issues women still face in the workforce, Michelle said the broader issue is social change.

"I think that if we are to change workplace inequality we need to look beyond workplace culture, and organisational policy and practice, to our broader societal views about gender.

Leaders are in a unique position to set and communicate the culture of an organisation, and this is key to successful change.

- Professor Michelle Ryan

"In particular, much of the inequality we see in the workplace stems from inequalities in the domestic sphere - who takes on the caring responsibilities, the division of labour on household tasks, and views of what good parenting looks like.

"While organisational change is necessary, unless we couple this with broader social change, we will never achieve true equality.

"This may take the form of parental leave policies, affordable childcare, and the valuing of work that is seen as stereotypically women's work."