Invest in women: Accelerate progress – #IWD2024

‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’ is the theme for the UN's International Women’s Day 2024. 

To explore that notion, we asked some of Jobs and Skills Australia’s (JSA) women leaders about how their work is helping women’s progress and participation in the Australian workforce.

Assistant Secretary Domestic Skills System, Angela Hope, sees a clear link between robust evidence and informed decision-making.

“Part of my role is to build new data to better understand the employment, economic, education and social outcomes of women and other people experiencing labour market disadvantage. The idea being that this data can generate intelligence which can help advocate for equal participation in society,” Angela says.

“For example, the First Nations Workforce Report shows apprenticeship completion rates for First Nations women in hospitality, retail and service manager roles are very positive, which may encourage others to consider this as an option for them.”

“At the same time, the VET Student Outcomes, Top 100 Courses report clearly demonstrated that females perform better than the national average in gaining employment after study, but are often in jobs that have lower pay. So that is an inequity that needs to be explored further to drive solutions.”

Acting Assistant Secretary for Labour Market and Migration, Natasha Yemm, leads a team that research what is happening across different industries, occupations and regions, and the impact that labour market trends have on various groups, including women.

“To promote equal participation in the economy, we really need to understand the current state and to do all we can to unpick the drivers of inequality,” Natasha says.

“Australia still has a substantial gender pay gap. Women, especially those aged 25-54, are less likely to be participating in the workforce than men. Access to affordable childcare is a big factor in this.”

Another factor is that many occupations are either dominated by women or by men. For example, construction and mining are male-dominated, while child care, aged care and primary school teaching are dominated by women.

“That has a negative impact on women’s pay and career opportunities, but it also has a negative impact on the whole labour market. For example, gender-skewed occupations are more likely to be in shortage. You can see this clearly in JSA’s Skills Priority List which is updated every year and helps inform the Government on labour market and education priorities including training and apprenticeship incentives.”

Fan Xiang, Director of Vocational Education and Training Outcomes and System Performance, taps into JSA’s VET National Data Asset (VNDA) for insights into the employment, economic and social outcomes women are gaining from their training. Such evidence can help inform policies and programs that empower women to obtain the skills required to thrive in the workplace.

“It’s the first time we’ve matched data on the top 100 courses completed with changes in employment, pay and things such as further study and reduced reliance on social security. VNDA takes a truly innovative approach to generate impactful intelligence that can empower better decision making.”

Reflecting on her own experience in the workplace, Angela Hope exemplifies the IWD 2024 theme.

“The role I am in now has been the hardest but possibly the most rewarding in terms of breaking stereotypes and demonstrating the benefits of gender diversity and inclusion in senior leadership.

“A mentor once said to me that the public service needs different styles of leaders, so be authentic and don’t try to be like the others. I believe the key to our success going forward is to further embrace a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and ways of working.”