Over the past 48 hours, news feeds across the globe have been filled with two simple words, "Me too"—women sharing personal stories of sexual harassment, abuse, violence and rape. It makes for harrowing reading, but it is a deeply personal reminder of the extent of the sexualised violence women face. Unsurprisingly, many tell of harassment in the workplace. I stand in solidarity with each of the brave women who are speaking up, and I acknowledge that many more women feel they cannot speak up because a perpetrator is a family member, a boss or a colleague.
The movement building in our Facebook feeds brings a broader conversation about gendered oppression to the fore, particularly in our workplaces. I will relay some facts. Women make up more than 80 per cent of workplace harassment complaints; women working full-time earn $269 on average less than men a week; we segregate industries by gender, devaluing traditionally female-dominated work like child care; we put up barriers to women re-entering work after raising kids; and women on average represent only 25 per cent of all ASX board positions. There can be no doubt that this oppression in our workplaces contributes to the sexual harassment exposed in the #MeToo movement. So how do we fix this? No single policy is the silver bullet. But I highlight three ways in which I think we can strengthen pathways for women within work.
First, we must drive equality in female representation by adopting quotas. Quotas guarantee genuine equality in representation, and that is to everyone's benefit. Quotas provide opportunities for both men and women to change their mindsets, assumptions and behaviours. Research shows diversity in the workplace means higher productivity and better decision-making. For example, KPMG has announced a target of 30 per cent women in partnership by 2020. The chairwoman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors recently conceded that quotas may be the only way to increase representation of women, given the institute's goal of 30 per cent female representation on ASX boards by 2018 has failed. Let us be frank: The only people who need to worry about quotas are mediocre men who are coasting along on privilege.
The second way to strengthen pathways for women is to create greater flexibility in our workplaces. Women continue to carry the load when it comes to child rearing and caregiving. Research shows how organisations can mainstream flexibility by redesigning their workflow, such as allowing people to work from home, introducing flexible days and giving time in lieu—all of which allow parents to balance work and family commitments. Half of all the Male Champions of Change committed organisations have adopted an "All Roles Flex" approach. For example, ANZ has a target to extend flexible work policies by 2018 to 90 per cent of the geographies in which it operates; the Commonwealth Bank makes financial contributions to assist with care costs; McKinsey facilitates carers through agencies, including for emergency child care; and others provide on-premises childcare facilities.
Paid parental leave for mothers and fathers means families can make the choices that best meet their needs. Investment in quality, affordable child care provides the flexibility for women to re-enter the workforce after having children, and it allows us, on a broader level, to redraw traditional notions of child raising that prioritise male employment. The third pathway is to acknowledge that men have a vital role to play in delivering gender equality. We must encourage men to challenge and change gender-biased organisational policies, practices and programs. Male Champions of Change are taking the "panel pledge," boycotting panels and conferences with all-male speaking lists, aiming to make women in leadership more visible. Men are backing women when they are ignored in meetings.
Companies like Deloitte are shifting gear, teaching men how to promote inclusion in the workplace, and then holding them accountable if they do not. Deloitte managers are being taught about unconscious bias in recruitment, and are calling out the ways sexism shapes our workplaces. This approach accepts that men must be part of solving the problem of gender discrimination, sexism, harassment and violence in our workplaces. That kind of thinking is important because for too long women have borne the brunt of driving change. For too long we have demanded that women call out sexism and educate men, or point out the structural deficiencies that stop women from reaching their potential.
In the same way, the onus of speaking out against sexual harassment and gendered violence has fallen to women, who are too often its victims. As women across the globe stand up and say "Me too" men have an opportunity to reflect on the broader problem of gendered violence in our communities and in our workplaces. This is an opportunity to reflect on how they might play a part and be a part of the solution.