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Governments in Australia have expressed deep commitment to progressing gender equity for their workforces, and have developed gender equity strategies, in line with a worldwide trend. Despite the expressed commitment and actions to support gender equity in most jurisdictions, progress towards gender equity in the workplace has been uneven. There remains a gap between expectations and the lived experience of women in public sector workplaces, potentially due to a mismatch between policy and practice. We identified that middle managers, who are responsible for many of the decisions around policy implementation, might be the key to understanding this. Our aim was to talk to middle managers about their role in progressing gender equity.

Further aims of the project included to:

  • Identify systemic and structural impediments, and workplace management reforms and policy levers which may be utilised to counter these barriers,
  • Examine the different approaches of the jurisdictions in implementing gender equity and share lessons,
  • Support the development of best practice, providing reports and workshops to discuss the research findings and convert them into policy and strategies for implementation,
  • Develop teaching and case study resources, so that Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) students can become ambassadors for best practice and contribute to policy and practice solutions back in their workplaces; and
  • Deepen our understanding of the role of managers in relation to gender equity in particular, public sector employment and good governance in general.

This report draws together our findings from four Australian public sector jurisdictions: New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. We conducted fieldwork from November 2017 to February 2018, to gather information from eight agencies, which included 40 focus groups with 273 middle managers and 21 interviews with senior executives and human resource (HR) staff, for a total of 294 participants. We acknowledge the support of ANZSOG, and the four jurisdictions to undertake and complete the research.

Based on a wealth of experience from the participants, we have identified practices and processes to facilitate progress toward embedding gender equity in public sector organisations. We provided each jurisdiction with a report containing findings on their two agencies and suggested actions. This report synthesises the findings from the four jurisdictional reports and contains suggested actions agencies and managers can take. It also contains a leading practice guide which middle managers can use to progress gender equity as part of their daily work (see Appendix A).

Funding for this publication has been provided by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government Research Program.

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