Bridging the gender gap – beware of the trolls

Unfortunately, this year we have witnessed too many stories about high profile women being harassed online as they strive for success in their careers. Most recently was the case of AFLW player Tayla Harris and the slew of derogatory comments and harassment, made mostly online, about a photograph of her at work.

At the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) we too are familiar with being targeted online with negative commentary and poor behaviour. Regrettably, in the last few months we have experienced a campaign of online bullying.

Much of the adverse commentary focuses on how gender inequality is merely the result of the choices women make over the course of their lives.

These ‘choices’ however do not happen in a vacuum. Women and men make choices on an uneven playing field. Systemic economic issues, underlying social pressures, entrenched work cultures and societal structures erode the ‘choices’ women have available to them.

Women and men deserve to have the equal opportunity to make a real ‘choice’ about how they work and live.

Unfortunately, research shows that men are twice as likely as women to have their requests to work flexibly rejected. Many of these men also reported feeling concerned about being unfairly stigmatised as being less committed to their job if they worked flexibly.

WGEA data also showed men only accounted for 27.8% of all carer’s leave and only 5.1% of all primary carer’s leave taken in 2017-18.

Men are not being given real permission in our workplaces to ‘choose’ any role other than that of ‘breadwinner’.

If a man is not given the ‘choice’ to work flexibly and take parental leave, there is only one option for his partner and that is no ‘choice’ at all.

Our recent research with Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre actually revealed that if you change the working conditions available to employees, often the choices of women change too.

Other commentary centres on the pay gap, or rather the belief of some, that the pay gap is a myth.

It would be ideal to live in a country without a gender pay gap. However, numerous data sources tell us that this is not the case.

So whichever way you look at it, there is a gender pay gap* in favour of men.

Women do not ‘choose’ to be paid less than men.

As we see it, the aim of online bullying is to stem the open flow of information by deterring others from engaging in meaningful discussions on a subject. No-one wins when we cannot engage in healthy public debate on topical issues.

Our goal, here at the Agency, is to encourage and foster open and active conversations on all social media platforms.

Why don’t you join us and support us in keeping all channels of discussion open by sharing this article with your network.

Let’s #keeptheconversationgoing!

* Remember – the ‘gender pay gap’ and ‘equal pay’ are not the same thing.