Despite society’s and the federal government’s efforts, whether we like it or not, gender bias still exists in the workplace. Research by Australian software company HiBob looked into how women felt about the government’s Fair Work Legislation Amendment Act, which came into force in December and aims to improve a number of workplace laws and put gender equality at the centre of the workplace relationships system.
“Of the women in Australia who have heard of the legislation, 41% say the amendment doesn’t go nearly as far enough as they would like it to, and 37% are sceptical of the success it will have on gender equality in the workplace,” says Damien Andeasen, ANZ country manager at HiBob. “A third (34%) of women also say the amendment only scratches the surface of the issues they face in the workplace.”
So, what kind of issues are women experiencing in the workplace? We asked four Australian women in male-dominated industries to share their experiences. Here’s what they said.
Samantha Gray, Reef Education Manager at Experience Co
“Within Great Barrier Reef Biology, we have a team of 18 marine biologists, and of that 16 are women, so we have a very close-knit team that supports one another and spend our weekends sharing our passions of nature and the outdoors — paddleboarding, swimming and taking little adventures.
“I believe that there has been an increased visibility in the women leaders and role models from the science community, and this has allowed young girls to see the possibility of growing up and being ‘just like them’. I am proud to represent women in STEM professions.
“I am always looking to expand on education in the reef space and partner with some incredible women in our sales team. We have just launched our new Reef Connect program to engage a different type of clientele from the school groups and students I have been working with for the last few years.”
Alison O’Brien, Director of Customer Success at PayPal Australia
“As the Director of Customer Success at PayPal with previous experience in startups, I’ve seen firsthand the impact of gender bias in male-dominated industries like finance and technology. Despite progress toward gender equality, women still face significant challenges and biases in the workplace.
“Gender bias takes various forms, including the lack of a diversity of thought, unequal pay and unbalanced company policies. In majority male workforces, there is a risk that women with different perspectives may be dismissed and their contributions not taken seriously.
“It is essential to have diverse points of view represented in decision-making processes to avoid herd mentality. For instance, I once pointed out the lack of female representation on the board to the CEO of my previous workplace. Although the lack of female representation was not due to malice, the lack of prioritisation underscores the need to make gender equality a priority.
“It also highlights the need for women to be able to speak up safely to highlight opportunities for businesses to do better. In my case, the CEO doubled down on efforts and we had a female board appointment within 6 months. Providing equal opportunity and outcomes for women, including support for maternity leave, without penalizing them is crucial for achieving gender equality.
“Addressing unconscious bias is important, and employers must create an inclusive culture and dismantle systemic barriers to women’s advancement. This includes providing mentorship and networking opportunities and education to foster a more inclusive workplace culture. At PayPal, we are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion and maintaining equal gender representation and pay parity across the business.
“By breaking down barriers, actively prioritising diversity when recruiting and providing support and mentorship for women, we can benefit the entire industry in the long run. Through ongoing conversations and collaborative efforts, we can all create a more inclusive and equitable workplace for everyone.”
Bobbi Lockyer, Freelance Photographer and Ambassador at Nikon
“As a woman photographer in a male-dominated industry, I’ve encountered many challenges. Gender bias has been a constant presence in my career. I’ve been discriminated against and assumed to be less skilled or knowledgeable about technology and media than men.
“It’s disheartening to know that I’ve missed out on major photoshoot opportunities simply because I’m a woman, and the job was given to a man instead. I’ve also been offered a lower pay rate than what I know a male photographer received for the same project. As a woman in business, I’m often juggling multiple roles, including caring for my family and community while running my business. It can be overwhelming at times, and I cherish being in supportive environments that appreciate and acknowledge the valuable contributions I make.
“Whether it’s choosing who I work with or taking time out on country with supportive family and loved ones, self-care is crucial to my well-being. I’m grateful for Nikon’s support of women like me in photography and creative industries as they work to break down gender biases and amplify our voices.”
Brooke Roberts, Co-founder and Director of Sharesies
“It’s no secret that the financial services and technology industries are male-dominated. You can certainly feel the shortage of female representation and leadership as you enter these spaces. This is changing.
“When I started in finance, I was often the only woman and the youngest person in the room, and in that environment, gender biases can easily get brushed under the carpet. I was extremely lucky to have great colleagues who stood by me, empowered me and ultimately supported me in my career and also when co-founding Sharesies.
“Compounding the problem of gender inequality in these industries is a skew to serving the male customer. Women traditionally haven’t been part of financial conversations. I remember growing up hearing stories of when a couple went to the bank, the Bank Manager would only look and speak to the male. This bias, if living today, is not acceptable.
“While I’ve seen the beginnings of change, there’s still a lot of work to be done to improve gender equity, including empowering financial freedom and encouraging more women to consider a career in finance and/or technology. To me, it’s important that I represent myself, Sharesies, and our purpose as best as I can, to help pave the way for future female and underrepresented leaders.”