The Australian Public Service (APS) has a long history of providing terms and conditions of employment which have enabled women and men to integrate work and caring responsibilites, to have a career, and to reach leadership positions.
The Australian Government has continued this tradition, adopting a strong policy position to advance gender equality in the APS. In April 2016 the government released Balancing the Future: The Australian Public Service Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2019. This three-year program aims to improve gender equality in the APS, partially fulfilling Australia’s commitment to the G20 to boost women’s workforce participation by 25 per cent by 2025.
While gender inequality in the workplace has long been a focus of academic research, less research has been conducted on how equality can be achieved: what it means, what it looks like, and how it is done. Drawing on rich qualitative data derived from hundreds of hours of interviews with APS employees, managers, and senior executives, this report identifies some of the opportunities and challenges APS agencies have faced in their efforts to progress — and embed — gender equality.
The following report presents the findings on the major areas we examined. Namely, how the Gender Equality Strategy has promoted conversations within the APS about gender equality; managers’ commitment to reducing unconscious bias; innovations to progress women’s careers; the importance of, and access to, flexible work arrangements, including for men, and, lastly, but perhaps most importantly, how to progress gender equality from the top to the bottom of an organisation. Each section contains quotes from those we interviewed, to highlight our findings.