E&Y Study That Interviewed David Gonski And Ian Narev Finds Companies Need To Do More On Gender Equality

David Gonski / File

Ever felt that someone was given the top job for the wrong reasons? It’s a common feeling.

What about that position going to someone of the opposite sex? Hurt again?

Gender equality is not about men versus women, according to a new look at gender equality by Ernst and Young, this time from the mouths of men.

It’s about giving everyone a fair go, a concept Australians believe they are world leaders in applying. However, when it comes to women in the workplace the fair go principle fades.

St James Ethics Centre executive Simon Longstaff says male privilege is a historical idea that was once tied to sacrifice.

“Men used to die down mines or go off to war to be cannon fodder,” he says.

“Today, some men still sail through life believing they are entitled to hold a leadership position because of who they are: where they went to school or who they know. It has nothing to do with merit.”

Ernst and Young looked at the issue in a new report called In His Own Words, The Male Perspective on Gender Equality.

“Our interviewees agree that getting around this bias will require radical changes: from companies placing as much focus on gender equity as they do on safety, to all organisations embracing flexible working conditions as normal and acceptable, to governments providing affordable childcare.

“It’s time for all Australians to accept that these changes are not just for the benefit of working women — they are essential changes to the fabric of our society and workplaces, which will benefit us all.”

Rewarding people equally for equal work done is a simple matter of fairness, says Ernst and Young. “Greater work force participation increases national productivity and makes the country’s balance sheet stronger: the more people who work, the more taxes are gathered and the less reliant our population is on government benefits.”

Men interviewed for the study include: David Gonski, Chairman Coca-Cola Amatil; Brian Hartzer of Westpac; Martin Parkinson, head of Treasury; David Thodey, CEO of Telstra; Ian Narev, CEO of Commonwealth Bank; General David Hurley.

Gonski: “Firstly, I think there are some men who fear having to compete with women. I think these men are in the minority, but they do exist. Secondly, I think it is easier for everyone to go along with the norms of today than it is to challenge them.”

Ernst and Young: “Their candid, and often surprising, answers lead to the inescapable conclusion that Australia is having the wrong conversations about gender equity.

“This is not a battle of the sexes — it’s the battle for Australia’s future prosperity. And we should all be on the same side.”

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