DCA’s Annual Diversity Debate to address flexible working and gender equality

Media releases

Diversity Council Australia’s Annual Diversity Debate will explore an important topic for business, government and the broader community: is flexible working the key to gender equality? The debate to be held in Sydney on 12 November, will be moderated by one of the ABC's most respected journalists and host of ABC TV’s Q & A, Tony Jones.

Nareen Young, DCA’s CEO said flexible working and gender equality are key issues for Australian business.

“Our research tells us that flexible working and gender equality are the top two areas of interest for employers when it comes to diversity, and we are excited to be able to bring these together at our debate.

“We have conducted two major studies on flexible working that show it is a very important driver for employment and retention but meaningful flexible work and careers do not yet exist in Australian business. Understanding the role that flexible working can play in gender equality is an important discussion for all organisations wanting to make the most of their people talent,” said Nareen.

At the event, proudly sponsored by Westpac and Echo Entertainment with the support of SBS, Telstra, EY, BRR Media and KPMG, the capacity crowd of 150 CEOs, HR directors and managers will hear lively debate from the panel of business leaders, academics and commentators, as early comments from the speakers attest.

Journalist, presenter and radio broadcaster Tracey Spicer, who is speaking for the affirmative team believes flexible working IS the key to gender equality for every working Australian.

"To me, the answer to this question is mathematical. Broadly, women want more flexible hours so they can improve work/life balance. The modern man wants to spend more time with his children. He, too, yearns for the flexibility denied to men of previous generations. The secret is to do this in a way which does not hamper one’s career path. Flexibility at work is not necessarily a ‘woman’s issue’. Nor is it a ‘man’s issue’,” said Tracey.

Annabel Crabb, ABC's Chief Online Political Writer and second speaker for the affirmative will argue flexible working for men is vital.

“The long fight to get women into the workplace is never going to be won, properly, until men are able to get out of it from time to time without feeling like they're committing career suicide," said Annabel.

Internationally renowned researcher and industry consultant, Dr Graeme Russell, who is also a speaker for the affirmative echoed the importance of men and flexible work and will argue that new approaches to work and caring will lead to greater equality.

“We need to change the way we think and talk about gender equality to include both paid work and caring, and to place more emphasis on the way flexible work can enable men to be equal participants in caring. Another change that is needed is to place more emphasis on how gender equality and flexible work are beneficial to men,” said Graeme.

In contrast, Professor Marian Baird, Director of the Women and Work Research Group at The University of Sydney and speaker for the negative team will argue flexible working is NOT the key to gender equality:

“The evidence shows that flexible working can actually lead to greater inequality by trapping women into unequal working patterns that entrench problems like the gender pay gap. Flexibility can also mean less predictability of work and less career mobility, and it can undermine hard fought working conditions,” said Marian.

Also a speaker with the negative team, Geoff Hogg, Managing Director of the Treasury Casino and Hotel Brisbane will argue there is not one solution to achieving gender quality.

“Flexible working has helped a lot of individuals meet the demands of their work and personal lives. However, we are not seeing enough change in gender diversity at the senior levels in a number of Australian organisations. There needs to be a range of practices implemented to provide gender diversity rather than relying on a single initiative,” said Geoff.

Lisa Annese, DCA’s Director for Programs and Development and final speaker for the negative team will argue that there are many pressing issues of inequality to be addressed, not just flexible working.

“In a country where women are paid approximately 17% less than men for work of equal value and where one woman is killed every week by her domestic or ex-domestic partner, flexible working arrangements are only one piece of the gender equality jigsaw,” said Lisa.