All aboard for equality

A lack of public transport is one of the key barriers to women taking up employment opportunities, regional cities have told the State Government’s gender equality roadshow.

Speaking with The Express prior to a visit to Sale yesterday to gauge the views of Gippslanders, Minister for Women Fiona Richardson said public transport had been a consistent theme raised in the five regional towns already visited.

“This is not just a barrier that women face, it’s a barrier that men will face as well as they seek to take up working opportunities,” Ms Richardson said.

“Also what’s been raised is the ‘juggle struggle’ – trying to get the balance right between work commitments and family commitments and supporting families with more flexible working arrangements.”

The roadshow is designed to help the government develop the state’s first gender equality strategy as a response to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which found violence against women begins with bad attitudes towards women.

Ms Richardson said the United Nations had estimated at the current rate of improvement it would take 117 years to see equality between men and women.

“What I don’t want to see is a glossy brochure that sits on a shelf somewhere within government,” Ms Richardson said.

“I want to see some measurable and agreed outcomes and agreed timeframes to deliver real improvements for women and girls.”

She said the key challenges in delivering gender equality were the unconscious bias or unconscious cultural resistance in improving attitudes towards women and girls such as sexist remarks or comments that devalue the contribution of women and girls to their communities.

“(We have to) watch our language, but also think about some of the attitudes that we have unconsciously signed up to that might be sending the wrong message to women and girls about what they can and can’t do with their lives,” Ms Richardson said.

“There is a growing awareness thanks to people like (2015 Australian of the Year) Rosie Batty and (former Victoria Police chief commissioner) Ken Lay about the way in which these negative attitudes towards women do increase the likelihood of violence in a society.

“We all have a role to play in talking about those attitudes.

“The overwhelming majority of men are good fathers, good partners and they’re not perpetrators of violence against women but a significant minority of men are.”

Ms Richardson said she wanted to see reforms embedded that ensured “this long-term project of changing cultural attitudes” was supported over budget and election cycles.

She cited the change in the cultural attitude Victoria had achieved over decades regarding road safety.

“It’s the kind of sustained effort we need to see to change attitudes towards women and girls,” Ms Richardson said.

The roadshow focuses on workforce participation and economic security; women’s development and leadership; women’s education and employment; health and wellbeing; and violence against women and girls.

It will end in Bendigo on 24 August and the gender equality strategy is due to be released this year.