Young professionals drinking coffee

Working women more educated but not more respected

24 February 2023
Little workplace progress made in five years, new report finds
Young Australian women are still fighting for equal pay, respect and opportunities in the workforce, according to a new report from the University of Sydney and the Australian National University.
Professor Rae Cooper AO

Professor Rae Cooper AO

The second dataset collected for the Australian Women’s Working Futures Project saw little progress since the first survey in 2017, despite social movements such as #MeToo and the significant workforce disruption of COVID-19 in the intervening years.

Co-author Professor Rae Cooper AO, Director of the Gender Equality in Working Life Research Initiative, said the findings paint a picture of frustration for women still striving for the same opportunities as their male colleagues.

“Women are telling us they are sick of being spoken down to and passed over for opportunities. Legislation is important, but it’s not enough – we need to think about the systemic bias and cultures of our organisations that devalue and discriminate against women.  Good employers will be paying attention to this to attract talented women to work in their organisations,” Professor Cooper said.

It’s a no-brainer for lifting productivity growth that we get this generation of highly educated young women not just participating in the labour market but being valued and respected in their workplaces.
Professor Rae Cooper AO

Flexibility key in a tight job market

Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill

Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill

The report, Gender dynamics in the post-pandemic future of work, draws on data collected by Ipsos for the University of Sydney and The Australian National University as part of a larger three-country study funded by the Australian Research Council.

The survey features responses from 1,000 women and 1,000 men aged 40 and under in Australia, revealing commonalities in their expectations from work and differences in their perceptions.

71 percent of men agreed men and women are treated and listened to equally in their current job, compared to 61 percent of women.

70 percent of men agreed men and women have the same chance for promotion, compared to 62 percent of women.

The survey showed Australian men and women under 40 have similar desires from their work, but women reported a larger gap between what they want and what they currently have. Picture: Supplied

Co-author Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill, Deputy Director of the Gender Equality in Working Life Research Initiative, said a lack of respect can prevent women from fully engaging in their workplace.

“Women were more likely than men to report wanting respect at work – it was their number one desire. This was closely followed by a desire for secure employment, flexibile working options and decent rates of pay,” Associate Professor Hill said.

“They’re also thinking more about the cost of living when considering starting a family and deciding how many children they want. 

Women were far more likely than men to consider access to and cost of childcare in their family planning, which reflects gendered expectations around unpaid care work.
Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill
Woman working from home at a desk

The majority of Australians under 40 now wish to work from home at least once a week, but there is a shortage of jobs offering this level of flexibility. Picture: Adobe Stock

The survey also found 77 percent of Australians under 40 want to work from home between one to five days a week, but only 38 percent of women and 44 percent of men currently do.

“This preference could have huge consequences in a tight labour market,” said co-author Professor Ariadne Vromen from the Australian National University.

“Most of the jobs of the future are in the service and caring economy – all jobs that need in-person work. Employers will need to think through how they can both meet demand for new jobs and give younger workers more balance in where they work.”

Disclaimer: This report was supported by the Australian Research Council. The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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