Celebrating International Women’s Day 2012

CSIRO women celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) with a Staff Association forum that broadcast live to over fifteen work sites around the country.

Ged Kearney Anna-Maria Arabia and Louise Jarman

Ged Kearney, Anna-Maria Arabia and Louise Jarman

Meanwhile, CSIRO workers in Canberra continued their tradition of successful IWD events with dozens turning out to listen to Sophie McCarthy explain the practical benefits of mentoring for both women and men.

A packed house at CSIRO Clayton was joined by special guests Ged Kearney (President, Australian Council of Trade Unions) and Anna-Maria Arabia (CEO, Science & Technology) for a conversation examining the challenges women continue to face in an industry that remains stubbornly male-dominated.

Science & Technology Australia’s Anna-Maria Arabia gave a stark assessment on the challenges facing women pursing a career in science, focusing on CSIRO in particular.

Citing CSIRO data, Ms Arabia said that while nearly forty per cent of CSIRO employees are women, representation crashed to a mere 8 per cent at level 8 (scientist) classification.

“This is an increase of 4.5 per cent from ten years ago, but at this rate it will still take about 60 years until the numbers of women at this senior level reflect the overall figures,” she said.

Ms Arabia acknowledged the positive examples of women who had been appointed to senior positions in the science sector, including CSIRO’s Megan Clark.

“However these achievements mask continuing low levels of female participation in physical sciences; high levels of attrition in the post-doctoral years of women’s scientific careers; and the overall small number of women in leadership roles in science,” she said.

“Too few young women are considering the physical sciences as a career path.

“Australia will gain both economically and socially if it can capture it’s investment in smart young women in science and support them into careers as senior research and technology leaders,” Ms Arabia said.

ACTU President Ged Kearney highlighted the job security problems faced by women in the wider workforce.

“The gap between the wages of men and women – currently at 17.8 per cent – continues to exist for many reasons,” Ms Kearney said.

“It’s due in part to the lack of value of what is seen as women’s work, the fact men are more likely to ask for a pay rise and the reality that women often work less hours than men once they have children , to name just a few,” she said.

According to ABS statistics, almost one third of all women workers are engaged as casuals and a significant proportion of these work irregular and unpredictable hours.

“A lack of family friendly work arrangements, forcing many women into insecure work and the lack of rights that goes along with it, is a real driver of inequality,” Ms Kearney said.

The rapid and pervasive growth of insecure work is currently the subject of a national inquiry, chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe, due to report before the ACTU National Congress in May.

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