Rigorous research insights to address gender equality at work and in careers
The Gender Equality in Working Life (GEWL) Research Initiative at the University of Sydney is a multidisciplinary research initiative leveraging several decades of research expertise on women’s working lives to establish an action-oriented, practical approach to building a gender equal future of work.
The GEWL Research Initiative offers unique, research-informed insights, developed using new workplace data, to produce targeted and effective gender equality interventions.
We provide nuanced, rigorous and ‘next-generation’ research, that explores solutions that are:
To aid gender equality in working life by:
Progress towards gender equality in Australia is slow and significant gaps remain as women cannot participate in the labour market on an even footing with men. The pandemic increased pre-existing inequalities and widened gender gaps in earnings, savings, and participation in the workforce. Across the globe, businesses and governments are now encouraged to 'build back better' and address gender inequality for a fairer and more resilient post-COVID economy.
Australian women are ready. They are the best educated in the OECD, better educated than at any point in history, and better credentialed than Australian men. They are also strongly attached to employment and expect long, rewarding careers. Our research shows that young women's and men's career expectations are more aligned than ever.
However, many inequalities remain stubbornly entrenched in the world of work. Gender gaps in pay and superannuation, unequal career opportunities and progression, occupational and industry segregation, the undervaluation of feminised work, the epidemic of disrespect in the workplace, and the misalignment of work and care regimes are all enduring challenges that women face in their careers.
Removing the barriers and disincentives to women's full workforce participation could add up to $25 billion per annum to the Australian economy. It will boost productivity, drive inclusive workplaces and reduce social inequalities. Action to address the pervasive drivers of workplace gender inequality is urgently required to build back better and fairer from the COVID pandemic.
This initiative brings together world-leading research capability with practical, evidence-based analysis to design gender equality into the post-pandemic future of work. Core research questions include:
The Director of the initiative is Rae Cooper AO, Professor of Gender, Work and Employment Relations at the University of Sydney Business School. She is President Elect of the International Labor and Employment Relations Association (ILERA) and has published over 70 articles and chapters on employment relations, workplace policy and aspects of women's working lives. Professor Cooper was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2019 recognition of her contributions to Australian higher education and her impact on workplace policy and practice. She has undertaken numerous collaborative research projects within an array of industry sectors for some of Australia's most well-known organisations including the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), the Human Rights Commission, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Law Society of NSW and she has worked as an advisor to key multi-lateral organisations, including the OECD and International Labour Organisation (ILO). Through these collaborations and her experience as a non-executive director and strategic advisor to industry and government, she is known for her clever and grounded approach. Professor Cooper is a globally recognized leader in the gendered dimensions of the workplace, and an expert in collaborative research programs that incorporate an evidence- based approach with world leading practice to identify practical, data-driven policies that achieve positive change.
Elizabeth Hill is Associate Professor in political economy at The University of Sydney and co-convenor of the Australian Work and Family Policy Roundtable. She is a leading researcher on the future of women, work and care in Australia and the Asia region, and has collaborated on research into gender equality, work and care with leading national and international institutions, including the International Labour Organisation and UN Women.
Charlie Hock is a Research Officer for the GEWL Research Initiative. She joined the team after working at UNSW and UTS in both project management and research capacities. Charlie has recently completed master's in human Rights at the University of Sydney, and also has qualifications in forensic psychology and gender studies.
Amy Tapsell is a Research Officer for the GEWL Research Initiative. Amy has worked as a Research Officer at the University of Wollongong, and more recently, worked as a Health Planning Officer for NSW Health. She has completed a B.A. in Psychology and a Master of Public Health in Health Promotion.
Meraiah Foley is a researcher specialising in gender inequality at work, with specific focus on women's experiences working in male-dominated occupations, the gendered dimensions of workplace technological change, and how the concepts of merit and meritocracy shape inequality at work. Meraiah has published extensively in highly ranked journals, including Human Relations, Gender, Work & Organization, and the Journal of Industrial Relations.
Dr Frances Flanagan is a Sydney Fellow and Lecturer in Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney. With an interdisciplinary background in history and law, her research considers the intersection of labour, environmental change, gender and technology.
Dr. Suneha Seetahul is an applied microeconomist specializing in gender, labour and development. She holds a PhD from the Bordeaux School of Economics and was a 2021 World Bank Africa Fellow. Her current research focuses on gender inequalities in the labour market, gender norms, household gender dynamics and nutrition, social protection and climate change.
Professor Ariadne Vromen is the Sir John Bunting Chair of Public Administration, a position co-funded by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and the Crawford School, at ANU. As a member of Crawford's Policy and Governance Department, and Deputy Dean (Research) for ANZSOG, she focuses on research leadership and strategy to foster excellence in impactful and applied research.
Ariadne's research interests are diverse, and include: citizen engagement, digital politics and governance, women and the future of work, policy advocacy, and young people and politics.
Dr Briony Lipton is a Visiting Research Fellow in the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) in the ANU Crawford School. Her research examines the relationship between organisational structures, practices, policies, and workplace cultures and how they shape women’s experiences in the workplace, their employment and career progression.
Sydney is a Research Associate in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School and is a convenor of The Body@Work Project. Her research focuses on the relationship between gender equality, paid work and reproductive health across the life cycle.
Laura Good is a PhD candidate in Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School. Her PhD research explores the gendered dimensions of skill within the retail industry. It seeks to understand how new technologies are re-shaping the skills profile of the industry and the implications of this for both workers and employers.
McCaye is a PhD Candidate in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School. Under the supervision of Professor Rae Cooper and Dr Meraiah Foley, her doctoral thesis offers a gendered analysis of how power is understood and accumulated in the legal profession.
Talara Lee is a PhD candidate with an interest in gender, workplace relations and the future of work. Talara is undertaking a PhD on gender inequality in the legal profession, with a particular focus on the role of the client in shaping legal careers, which employs a mixed-method approach to data collection on designing gender equality into the future of work in the law.
Ethan's research investigates how "empty-nester" mothers experience gendered responsibilities for unpaid caring labour at different points in their lives, from family formation into mature age.
Agatha Court is a PhD student in Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School. Her PhD research is focused on gender inequality in male-dominated industries, in particular the inequalities experienced by early career professionals.
This project examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis on the working futures of young women and men in three advanced market economies where the pandemic hit with varying degrees of severity. Young people have experienced the greatest upheaval of all workers, and the impact has been gendered. Recovery strategies will have lasting consequences for women’s and men’s working futures. The project will produce macro-level mapping of post-pandemic national work/care regimes, and micro-level survey data on young people’s experience of and attitudes to the future of work in Australia, the UK and Japan, to deliver insights on the gendered economic and social impact of the pandemic and inform a more inclusive global recovery. (Project ID: DP220100657)
This project investigates gender segregation, which is a remarkably resilient problem in the Australian labour market, despite women's increasing labour force participation and strong educational attainment. It examines this problem with a focus on women’s careers in very male-dominated occupations. In these contexts, women enter in low numbers, find it difficult to progress, and face extremely hostile working environments. Adopting a career stage, a worker- and industry-engaged, and a comparative design, the project will generate new insight into where and how sustainable careers for women are challenged in these contexts. This knowledge will inform strategies to build gender equality in jobs at the heart of the economy. (Project ID: FT210100356)
This project aims to investigate how women and men understand and experience the changing nature of work and their hopes and fears for the future. This project expects to generate new knowledge about the gendered dimensions of workplace change using an innovative and engaged research design that focuses on retail and the law, two areas where women are increasingly dominant but which are located at distinct ends of the labour market. Expected outcomes of this project include an enhanced and coordinated capacity to build gender equality into the future of work. This should provide significant benefits such as better living standards for individuals and families and improved profitability and productivity for businesses. (Project ID: LP190100966)
This project will investigate how employees and managers in the Australian retail sector understand, experience and manage sexual harassment at work. This research will inform targeted actions to address and prevent sexual harassment in retail workplaces through collaboration with key sector stakeholders.
GEWL holds regular invitation-only seminars to bring together key stakeholders (in industry, government, unions and not-for-profit organisations) with leading academic researchers to address critical questions relating to gender equality at work. We aim to use our research to inform key debates and actions.
On August 16th, 2022, GEWL convened an in-camera seminar with leading academic researchers with key public servants and policy advisors to discuss key issues, actions, and risks in relation to gender equality and industrial relations in the coming year.
On June 23rd, 2022 GEWL held an in-camera seminar with leading academics and key stakeholders from the sector, government and civil society to discuss the Covid-19 impact on ECEC and future research directions.
Collaborating with the University and the Gender Equality in Working Life Research Initiative offers a network of outstanding academics, students, and alumni, to generate new knowledge and deliver evidence-driven, multidimensional solutions for the future of work.
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