International Women's Day calls for each one of us to actively create a more gender equal world #eachforequal. This International Women's Day, we're calling for action from governments and businesses to stop social and economic data bias and plan cities that address the genuine needs and experiences of women in Australia.
Employment and economic activity in Australian capital cities continue to concentrate in central cities while housing and population growth are predominantly in expansive new suburbs in growth areas on the fringes. Metropolitan plans are seeking to address concerns on the ability of residents of suburban fringe locations to access employment opportunities. Yet, there is limited analysis of how this uneven access to jobs impacts men and women differently.
To create more gender-equal cities, we need to understand social and economic issues in our communities by gender. When we don’t disaggregate data by gender, we create a data bias that distorts our understanding of how cities work, hiding the differing experiences of women and men.
The City of Whittlesea: taking steps to overcome gender inequity in employment
The City of Whittlesea is taking steps to understand the extent and nature of gender inequality in employment. The City of Whittlesea, located in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Australia. The population is expected to grow by more than 160,000 people or over 50 per cent by 2041. Much of this growth will be concentrated in new suburbs in growth areas.
The separation of residential areas from work and the tight ‘spatial leash’  sees women less willing to travel long distances to work due to caring responsibilities. This lack of ability to travel and a lack of local employment opportunities contributes to the perpetuation of traditional gender roles. These outcomes constrain and disadvantage both women and men, and can contribute to entrenching gender inequality and other social issues in growth areas.
Indicators of employment access in metropolitan Melbourne show:
- Women are more likely to have a bachelor degree or higher than men, yet are also more likely to have lower incomes in full time employment.
- More women do more unpaid childcare than men, especially in growth areas.
- Women travel shorter distances to full time employment than men across metropolitan Melbourne.
- While there was gender inequality in employment across all locations in Melbourne, it was most pronounced for women in growth areas.
Tertiary educated women living in growth areas:
- are less likely to be in a job that reflects their level of qualification compared to men, and to women living in inner and middle growth areas.
- more likely to be earning less than $65,000 year in a full time job than men, and than women in inner and middle growth areas.
The research is a good example that highlights data bias and what is rendered invisible when we don’t disaggregate data by gender. The indicators are brought to life in a short film developed by Council which documents local women’s stories on the challenges in accessing employment aligned with their skills and experience. The interviews provide a personal perspective on gender inequity in employment opportunities in growth areas.
Education and skills analysis
The proportion of full time employed residents with a Bachelor Degree or higher who are not working in Managerial/Professional/Technician/Tradeworker roles (CENSUS 2016).
Education and income analysis
The proportion of full time employed residents with a Bachelor Degree or higher earning less than $65k per year (CENSUS 2016).
The indicators and personal stories present a strong call to action. Whittlesea Council facilitated a forum to explore actions to address inequality in employment opportunities ‘Work life: How do we build gender equity in outer growth suburbs’.
There was a strong shared recognition of the existing gender inequity, and the need to create change covering opportunities across economic and business development to build the local economy and foster entrepreneurship:
- creating places that are more attractive investment propositions to build the local economy and local jobs.
- role modelling gender equity in employment practice and making local jobs flexible.
- promoting social connectivity by connecting residents to support services.
- addressing gender inequity in business practice.
New legislation requires the public sector and select organisations to consider and promote gender equality
The new Victorian Government’s recent Gender Equality Act 2020 aims to improve workplace gender equality across the Victorian public sector, universities and local councils. The Act acknowledges that gender can affect an individual’s needs and experiences. It requires organisations to consider and promote gender equality in the community by thinking about how their work affects Victorians of different genders and making appropriate changes to policies, programs and services.
 Pocock, B., Skinner, N. and Williams, P. (2012) Time Bomb: Work, rest and play in Australia today, NewSouth
Environment, Housing, Transport