The number of women in the workforce is steadily increasing in NSW, but Mayor Darriea Turley said this needs to be backed up by policy and changes in the workplace if it’s to last.
The state government has released the ‘Then and Now’ report in time for International Women’s Day, which examines the progress women have made in gaining a foothold in traditionally male-dominated industries.
The number of women in these industries has increased by between two and five per cent over the past few years, and they now make up anywhere from a quarter to a third of these workforces.
Mayor Turley said while it’s good news, these numbers still aren’t particularly high.
“Look at the number of chief executives and general managers, going from 12.7 per cent 30 years ago to 28.6 per cent today,” Mayor Turley said.
“Women are taking on bigger roles and breaking through the barrier, but the issue is how do we retain these roles for women, and how do we change the workforce, not women, to be open to new things,” she said.
“Some of this is about workplace flexibility, because at the end of the day everyone also has a role at home. But what we want to see in any workforce in any industry is a balance, because that balance of gender and shared skill base is what brings that industry to success.”
NSW Minister for Women, Tanya Davies, said flexible workplaces are a key government policy.
She said educating women about employment and career opportunities is key to ensuring their financial security and independence.
“Flexible workplaces are acknowledged as a major factor in attracting a diverse workforce which is why by 2019 all NSW Government roles will be flexible wherever possible and we must encourage other employers to follow our lead,” Minister Davies said.
“It’s also imperative that women are represented at decision making tables across Government and business to ensure the best outcomes for both men and women, in their public and private lives.”
Mayor Turley said government needs to show the value of women in the workforce and set the scene via policies and direct action.
She said she’s grateful for her fellow female councillors, Marion Browne, Maureen Clark, and Christine Adams, as she’s also grateful for her fellow male councillors.
“I think about Nydia Edes, the first female councillor elected in Broken Hill, and how she had to wait over 50 years to see the first female mayor, and there were so many great female councillors before me that could have been elected mayor,” Mayor Turley said.
“I’ve met fabulous women over the years who choose not to come back to work because it’s not flexible enough to shift their hours so they can do work and care for their children, and we’re missing out on their skills and expertise,” she said.
“This can apply to men as well, I’m sure when we had children my husband would have loved to have the flexibility to spend more time with his children.”
For those asking why there should be a day focused specifically on women, International Men’s Day is celebrated each year on November 19.
Mayor Turley said this International Women’s Day we should celebrate the women of Broken Hill in all sorts of roles.
“With a husband and two sons, I celebrate men every day, and once a year I get to go and have breakfast with the amazing women of Broken Hill that I don’t see,” she said.
“International Women’s Day is important because it puts a spotlight on women and encourages us to think about how we as organisations go through our selection processes for positions, how we as organisations provide a workplace that actually supports people to participate.”
“When you see a woman out today, tell her she’s doing a great job.”