Thunder from down under

An angry piece about the lack of opportunities for Australian women.

Published January 23, 2006 8:10PM (EST)

There's a spectacularly angry piece today by Sue Dunlevy in Sydney's Daily Telegraph about how Australia's women are progressing in terms of professional appointments and opportunities.

Noting that Australian telecom giant Telstra has recently appointed its first female executives and that retiring cabinet minister Kaye Patterson is pleading for more women in the ministry, Dunlevy observes that "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Forty years after the feminist revolution, she writes, "Telstra has just discovered that women make up 50 per cent of the population ... And it's given four of them a senior job."

Noting how "absurd" it is to be having this conversation in the 21st century, Dunlevy admits that looking at the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency's annual report sheds some light on why discrimination is still taking place. According to Dunlevy, "its last survey found only 9.2 per cent of the nation's CEOs are women, the same number as in 2003-04," and while 48 percent of employees are women, only 31.5 percent of managers and 8.6 percent of board members are female. Women account for only 60 of Australia's 226 members of Parliament.

Why? Well, according to Dunlevy, for exactly the same reasons we get all lathered up about here in the States: Women make up 77.4 percent of part-time employees, 57 percent of casual employees and only 35.6 percent of full-time employees. Why? Because of the expectation and tradition of women remaining in charge of domestic responsibilities. Sounding an awful lot like Linda Hirshman, Dunlevy writes, "Only when men do more of the caring, and workplaces become more flexible at the top end, will the glass ceiling start to really crack."

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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