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Women, Work and Policy Research Group

Building equitable workplaces and policies for sustainable careers and lives for women
The Women, Work and Policy Research Group provides a focal point for collaboration between leading scholars, business practitioners and policy makers to explore, understand and respond to the challenges facing women, work, employment, family and community.

About Women and Work

Founded in 2006, the Women, Work and Policy Research Group aims to expand our knowledge and research expertise on women, work and policy in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. Recent public and political debates about changing demographics and workplaces, parental and family leave, childcare, elder care, domestic and family violence leave, menstrual and menopause leave, the gender pay gap, working from home and declining birth rates highlight the need for quality research in this field.

The Women, Work and Policy Research Group engages closely with debates about trends impacting the workforce and we bridge the gap between academia and policy. We provide the research necessary for developing evidence-informed policy in matters pertaining to women, work and family and engage with all levels of government, business, unions and not-for-profit organisations.

We have made significant contributions to both government and company policies about parental leave, women and leadership, flexible and equitable work arrangements and domestic and family violence leave.

  1. Leave policies over the life course – including parental leaves and complementing our Body@Work project.
  2. Flexible and gender inclusive work policies – of growing significance to women in the labour market post-COVID.
  3. Elder care and mature worker policies – with the ageing of the population and the workforce, elder care is a growing phenomenon but has received less theoretical and practical policy examination.
  4. Sustainable work policies – of increasing importance with economic and climate catastrophes, this theme examines the place of women in policies regarding sustainable work futures.
  5. Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) policies - these supra-national, national and regional policies are brought together in a World Universities Network project that comparatively studies and interrogates WEE in a mix of high, middle and lower income countries.

Our presentations

Our academics and researchers regularly present at conferences and symposiums.

It's time for a gender equal and caring economy!

The Women Work and Policy Research Group's annual Jessie Street International Women's Day Lecture on 7 March, 2023 was presented by British economist and member of the UK Women's Budget Group, Professor Susan Himmelweit.

Oral Defence as a Mode of Thesis Examination

Presented by Dr Daniel Dinale, Work and Organisation Studies, Thursday 16 June 2022.

Respect@Work: Making it Happen

The Women and Work Research Group's annual Jessie Street International Women's Day Lecture on March 7, 2022 was presented by Kate Jenkins, Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

Gender equality at work: where are we now and where to next after COVID-19

Professor Rae Cooper, AO delivered the Equality and Inclusion Plenary Session Keynote Address at the ILERA World Congress (Virtually) in Lund Sweden on June 24, 2021.

Gender-based inequality during and post crisis – The gendered effect of COVID-19
  • Panel, UNSW
  • Rae Cooper and Sarah Mosseri
  • 28 May 2020
Women, Covid and the future of work
  • Unions NSW event
  • Rae Cooper and Sarah Mosseri
  • 10 June 2020
ACTU Solidarity talks on gender equality at work
  • ACTU Seminar Panel
  • Rae Cooper
  • 17 June 2020
Australian Financial Review Retail Summit
  • The Future of IR in Retail, Panel
  • Rae Cooper
  • 25 June 2020
Women’s jobs and Covid
  • Unions NSW Women’s Committee event
  • Rae Cooper and Sarah Mosseri
  • 1 July 2020
Women’s Human Rights in the Changing World of Work
  • United Nations Webinar and Panel
  • Rae Cooper
  • 22 July 2020
Women and COVID-19
  • Sydney Ideas Panel
  • Rae Cooper
  • 24 July 2020
Women, Work and Retirement: Choice and Constraint
  • Policy Dialogue on Retirement Incomes
  • Marian Baird
  • 1 November 2018
Carers Needs and Policy Contexts
  • Carers NSW 2018 Biennial Conference
  • Marian Baird
  • 12 October 2018
Women in investment management: experiences and strategies for change
  • Chartered Financial Analyst Societies Diversity Committee meeting, Sydney
  • Sarah Oxenbridge
  • 25 September 2018
Australian Women in Investment Management
  • Women in Banking and Finance, Boardroom meeting, Sydney
  • Sarah Oxenbridge
  • 20 September 2018
The work and career experiences of Australian Women in Investment Management
  • Women in Super Membership Meeting, Cairns
  • Sarah Oxenbridge
  • 5 September 2018
Attracting and retaining women in investment management roles
  • Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees ASI Conference, Cairns
  • Sarah Oxenbridge
  • 5 September 2018
Menstrual leave; A new controversy?
  • 15th Annual International Seminar of the International Network on Leave Policies and Research, Toronto, Canada
  • Marian Baird and Elizabeth Hill
  • 13 July 2018
Dad and partner pay: The emergence of paternity leave in Australia
  • 15th Annual International Seminar of the International Network on Leave Policies and Research, Toronto, Canada
  • Leo Gordon and Marian Baird
  • 13 July 2018
Australian Women’s Work Futures
  • NSW Fire and Rescue International Women’s Day Keynote Address
  • Marian Baird
  • 8 March 2018
Fatigue and work-life blend
  • Presentation to Australian Federation of Airline Pilots/Civil Air International Women’s Day Conference, Brisbane
  • Sarah Oxenbridge
  • 6 March 2018
Women and Work Futures keynote
  • Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association, ACT 2018 Conference: Fair Work – Past, Present, Future
  • Marian Baird
  • 2 March 2018
The Labour Market and Policy: Context for Mature Age Workers
  • Centre of Excellence on Population Ageing research, Workshop on Mature Labour Force Participation, Canberra
  • Marian Baird
  • 19 October 2017
Strengthening our organisations through encouraging a diverse and inclusive workforce
  • Presentation to AFAC Fire and Emergency Management Conference, Sydney
  • Sarah Oxenbridge
  • 4 September 2017
Flexibility Fixes
  • ACTU NexGen Conference 2017, Sydney
  • Marian Baird
  • 27 June 2017
Enhancing Gender Equality
  • UN Women and University of Sydney
  • Rae Cooper
  • 14 June 2017
Technical Working Party on Working Hours and Leave
  • International Labour Organization, Geneva
  • Marian Baird
  • 29-30 May 2017
Developing Leadership for Good
  • Presentation at St Andrew's College Prize Night
  • Marian Baird
  • 25 May 2017
The big picture: Impacts of judging on laws relating to tax, work and childcare
  • Presentation at the Asia Pacific Regional Conference of the International Association of Women Judges, Sydney
  • Marian Baird with Myra Hamilton (UNSW)
  • 28 April 2017
Paid Parental Leave Updates
  • Presentation to Work and Family Policy Roundtable, Sydney
  • Marian Baird
  • 27 April 2017
Gender gaps at a glance
  • Presentation to Women of Influence Roundtable, Menzies Centre
  • Marian Baird
  • 31 March 2017
The new life cycle of women, work and leadership
  • Keynote presentation to the Office of State Revenue
  • Marian Baird
  • 30 March 2017
Leading women speak out (webcast)
  • Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS)
  • Marian Baird
  • 8 March 2017
Be bold for change
  • University of Sydney Business School International Women’s Day Celebration
  • Rae Cooper
  • 8 March 2017
International Women’s Day Address
  • Saint Scholastica’s College 
  • Rae Cooper
  • 7 March 2017
Best Practice in Parental Leave Policy
  • Presentation to KitchenAid
  • Marian Baird and Alexandra Heron
  • 31 January 2017

Our latest research

A new report by Professor Marian Baird and Daniel Dinale for the Fair Work Commission analyses flexible work options and working from home preferences before, during and after COVID-19.

Download the November 2020 report (pdf, 2.6MB

A first-of-its-kind study examining the economic security of single older women without children has busted the myth that people without children must have uninterrupted careers and healthy retirement savings.

Led by Associate Professor Myra Hamilton from the University of Sydney Business School, the research found two thirds of research participants had experienced an involuntary career interruption despite not having children.

The report, Security in old age for older single women without children, is a collaborative project between the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research, the University of Sydney, University of NSW and Curtin University, funded by Certified Practicing Accountants (CPA) Australia.

Download the briefing note (pdf, 690

A rapid analysis on Covid-19 and implications for women’s economic participation for ‘Investing in Women’, an initiative of the Australian Government. 

This report provides: 

  • An overview of common themes emerging around the implications of COVID-19 on women’s economic participation; 
  • Recommendations about risks and opportunities for IW in the areas of women in the workplace, women entrepreneurs and gender norms; 
  • Potential areas for further rapid analysis and research around COVID-19, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

Download the full report (pdf, 1.1MB).

Foley, M; Cooper, R; and Mosseri S (2019). Gender equitable recruitment and promotion: Leading practice guide, WGEA Commissioned Research Paper, The Australian Women’s Working Futures (AWWF) Project, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Gender bias is pervasive at work and in organisations, creating inequalities at every stage of the employment cycle. Gender-based stereotypes affect which candidates get recruited for certain roles and which do not, which candidates get selected for those roles and why, how salaries are negotiated, how managers provide feedback to their employees, and which employees receive career development opportunities and career encouragement and which do not. Each of these factors compounds across women’s careers, producing and sustaining gender inequality from recruitment to selection to promotion.

Decades of research has made one thing clear: gender biases are nearly always present in employment decisions, subtly influencing our assessments about who is the ‘right’ or ‘best’ person for the job. This insight paper highlights some of the research examining how gender bias operates at work and provides evidence-based suggestions for creating more equitable recruitment and promotion systems.

Download the report

An online survey of 2000 women aged 16-40, supplemented by focus groups with specific categories of women. A sample of 500 men is also included. 

The aim is to understand women’s experiences and expectations in employment. It covers topics such as current and recent employment experience, training and future career and family planning. 

Funded by the University of Sydney Strategic Initiatives Grant Scheme 2017.

Download the full report (pdf, 3.4MB).

Examining the work and career experience of Australian women employed in traditionally male-dominated occupations, professions or industry sectors. Running from 2017 to 2020, this project will focus on women working in investment management, automotive trades and aviation (pilots). The questions guiding the project are:

  • What is the lived experience of women working in male-dominated occupations and sectors?
  • How do women’s experiences coalesce, or vary, across occupations and sectors?
  • What can be done to improve the gender representation and working experiences of women working in male-dominated occupations and sectors?

The team includes Professor Rae Cooper, Dr Sarah Oxenbridge and Professor Marian Baird AO and involves an online survey and interviews with women working in each of the three occupations, as well as qualitative interviews with key informants from each of the three sectors.

Data gathered via fieldwork in the investment management and automotive trades sectors and fieldwork with female pilots commenced in late 2018.

Download the first report: Women in investment management (pdf, 702KB).

Download the second report: Women in automotive trades occupations (pdf, 705KB).

A study exploring the ways to understand and ultimately to disrupt the gendered norms on access to flexible work, enabling organisations and individuals to adopt new practices that expand flexible work to a broader range of employees and extend its well-known impacts on organisational performance and gender equality.

Existing academic and industry research was reviewed, and face to face or phone interviews conducted with representatives of eight organisations in a range of industries. Data provided by these organisations was reviewed. Organisations were selected based on their size and scale, variety of role types, industry sector and evidence of the impact of “All Roles Flex”.

Download the full report (pdf, 4.4MB)

Recently completed research

InvestigatorsDimitria GroutsisRae CooperGregory Whitwell

This research builds on an emerging body of work investigating cultural diversity in senior leadership roles in large private sector organisations. We are analysing how culturally diverse the non-executive director cohort of the ASX100 is, as well exploring the enablers and inhibitors to broader cultural diversity. This research was prompted by an invitation from the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Institute of Company Directors to design a methodology for a pilot project to understand these processes and outcomes.

InvestigatorRae Cooper

Scoping study of the position of women in the technical and business segments of the music industry in Australia. Includes a literature review and a scope of leading practice in select economies to understand drivers for equality.

Download the report: Skipping a beat (pdf, 700KB).

Partner with us

We regularly undertake funded research in partnership with government, businesses and not-for-profit organisations. Recent projects have focused on women’s work in non-traditional occupations, women and leadership, women’s employment, maternity leave and flexible working arrangements.

We welcome approaches for engaged research and potential research partnerships. Please contact us.

Our people

Meet our academics and researchers.

Our events

We organise and host various events and activities for researchers, students, business and government representatives.

"Does this Desk Make my Job Look Big?" - the Design, Implementation and Impact of "All Roles Flex" in a range of Australian Organisations
  • Speaker: Troy Roderick, Rae Cooper, Marc Stears
  • 26 November 2018

The Women, Work and Leadership Research Group and the Sydney Policy Lab launched a Discussion Paper by Troy Roderick on how Australian organisations are mainstreaming flexible ways of working and realising sustainable benefits for their people and their businesses, across a range of industry sectors, role types and commercial contexts. For more information, visit the event page.

Gender Pay Symposium
  • Women, Work and Leadership Research Group and the University of Sydney Policy Lab
  • 28 September 2018

With keynote speaker Fair Work Commission President Iain Ross and other leading voices including Greens Senator Larissa Waters, Jo-anne Schofield from United Voice, and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the symposium explored structural, organisational, and individual responses to the challenge of achieving pay equity.

Overload: How good jobs went bad and what we can do about it
  • Speaker: Professor Erin L Kelly
  • 2 July 2018

Presenting findings from a multi-method field experiment conducted in conjunction with the Work, Family, and Health Network.

The #MeToo Movement: Implications for scholars, managers and policymakers
  • Speaker: Professor Christine L Williams
  • 26 June 2018

Exploring the implications of the #MeToo movement for scholars, managers and policymakers and how it presents new opportunities for combating sexual harassment in the workplace.

It’s a boy’s thing really, isn’t it? A gender analysis of the career choices of male and female engineers and an initiative to plug the ‘leaky pipeline’
  • Professor Susan Durbin
  • 22 June 2018

Examining a profession in which gender segregation begins at school and exploring a practical solution for recruiting and retaining women engineers.

Paid parental leave: What can the United States and Australia learn from each other?
  • Speaker: Professor Deborah Widiss
  • 8 May 2018

The workshop examined the difference between the paid parental leave offerings in Australia and the US, how they effect the traditional gendered division of family labor and the level of support the offer single mothers.

Organisational obstacles to men’s participation in childcare: Implications for women in leadership
  • Speaker: Professor Emerita Linda Haas
  • 12 March 2018

Presenting research from her thesis: 'The same gendered cultural and structural obstacles that keep men from taking leave in Sweden work to prevent women from obtaining leadership positions in Sweden (and elsewhere)'.

Women and the Future of Work: Report 1 of the Australian Women’s Working Futures Project
  • 6 Mar 2018

Launching the report 'Women and the Future of Work', discussing key findings and outlining implications for policy, practice and scholarship.

Policy submissions

Explore our contributions to policy affecting women.

Gender lens on the budget 2018-2019

With the National Foundation of Australian Women.

View and download the findings (pdf, 1.6MB).

Analysis of the impact of the government’s proposed changes to paid parental leave on key workers in South Australia

With Fair Agenda

Download the recommendations (pdf, 550KB).

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