Ok I really didn’t want to be writing this post today. After a fabulous International Women’s Day yesterday – spent MC’ing the fabulous IWD Melbourne Luncheon with 400 women and men all committed to gender equality and raising much needed funds for employment support charity Wear For Success – I was ready to get back to business today.
God knows my office needs it (yes, my desk looks like that again). But then this happened.
I’m at the airport last night waiting for my flight, watching my friend Avril Henry on ABC’s special IWD edition of The Drum as I scroll the social media feeds for the day. And I see this post from Eric Abetz:
And I immediately think to myself “who is this tool ignoramus tool?”
I mean I’ve heard his name bandied around in the news from time to time and in the political flotsam and jetsam, but really, I wasn’t sure who Eric Abetz was. So I googled him.
It turns out he’s a right wing Liberal Senator in Tasmania whose pet hate appears to be diversity. Of any kind. I mean apart from this deliberate attack on gender equality yesterday, on International Women’s Day, just a couple of weeks ago he used a senate hearing to object to the rainbow flag being displayed in government buildings. Seriously.
Of course, it’s 2017 and I’d just spent the day hearing four sensational women sharing their insights on gender equality and strategies to overcome the barriers women face in advancing their careers.
So I re-read Abetz’s post and I think to myself this suggestion of women “demanding that people make way and artificially promote you simply because of your sex” isn’t normal rational thinking. Maybe Abetz is lacking in education or mental capacity of some sort, or at best uninformed as to what actually goes on in Australian workplaces??
But then I discover that Abetz was the Minister for Employment from 2013 to 2015 (and the Shadow Minister immediately prior). That’s right. So either he never took the time to understand the brief of his Shadow Ministry, or he has experienced some form of amnesia or early onset dementia since then.
Either way, it’s obvious that Abetz needs to be educated on a few key facts, so here’s the list I sent to him today, in the interests of community service (if you’d like to contact him to voice your opinion you can do that here)
- Senator Abetz, your suggestion that Queen Elizabeth II is more committed and hard working than Australian women is insulting. In Australia the workforce participation rate for women is 59.3%. Women contribute to our economy and work every bit as hard as our male counterparts, and in return we are rewarded with gender pay gap of 16.2%. This is what we object to and seek rectification of. Plain and simple. It’s not an unreasonable request.
- In addition to paid work, Australian women perform almost three quarters of unpaid caregiving. Unpaid caring work is incredibly demanding and hard work and – while excluded from our economic indicators – generates great value to society. In fact a recent report by PwC places the value of unpaid caring – from raising children, caring for the sick or elderly through to volunteering – at $345 billion making it almost three times bigger than the financial and insurance sector.
- If you were unaware of the role that women play in the paid and unpaid workforce – having held the ministry and shadow ministry for employment until very recently – then you should be ashamed of yourself. You were paid to know precisely this sort of information.
- While you are talking down to Australian women, you’d do well to remember that as a public servant you are paid by the Australian people. As working women who pay taxes, we employ you. As the 51% of the population who are entitled to register to vote, you report to us. And we have the power to sack you. If you don’t believe us, just watch what we can do when we’re really pissed off.
- And finally, you clearly don’t understand that International Women’s Day is a day where the social, cultural, political and economic achievements of women are recognised, the world over. It is a day of celebrating women and the contribution they make, not a day for tearing us down. For you and people who like you who still have their heads firmly planted in the sand or perhaps the 1950s, one day a year is clearly not enough to educate you on the value of women to our communities, and the opportunity that gender equality represents. So, as a gesture of service, I pledge to spend every day of the next year educating you and your fellow politicians, business leaders and our broader communities on the necessity for gender equality. You can consider today Day 1 of #IWD365 and you can be sure you’ll be hearing more from me on this.
As an afterthought, I decided to also email these 5 points to my local member, Mr Tony Abbott, and Prime Minister Turnbull, to express my complaint. I wonder if any of them will reply to me? (no need to disappoint me with an answer on that one!!)
So you see, I really didn’t want to be writing this post today and creating a whole lot more work for myself in the year ahead. But clearly I need to.
To my my friends and colleagues out there, what say you? Will you get behind #IWD365 and focus attention on the rights and achievements of women not just for one day of the year, but for every day of the year?
Yours in anticipation,
FOOTNOTE: the first version of this post included a typographical error in the form of omitting the Senator’s role as Minister, as well as Shadow Minister. This has been corrected above.