By Cameron Harris and Eunice Lau
Figures showing girls lose the belief they can attain leadership roles as they get older have been labelled “absolutely disturbing” by CEOs For Equity executive director Tania Cecconi.
CEOs For Equity aims to boost women’s workforce participation and improve gender equity in jobs and pay in enterprises throughout Western Australia.
The Dream Gap report released on Wednesday by Plan International, an organisation concerned with children’s welfare, surveyed more than 1700 young Australian women and girls.
It found more than 40 per cent of respondents believed their gender was a barrier to achieving a leadership position.
Young adults seemed more aware of the difficulties facing women in the workplace than their younger counterparts.
Seventy-five per cent of girls aged 10-14 believed they had every opportunity to be a leader going forward, while only 57 per cent of girls aged 18-25 agreed.
Youth Affairs Council chief executive Ross Wortham said the onus was on the media, corporations, government and schools to achieve equal rights for all people in Australia.
“It’s not just one government department’s responsibility to ensure that we achieve equality,” he said.
Ms Cecconi said females suffered from an “unconscious bias”, which may influence them from a young age.
When Ms Cecconi’s daughter went to school with a book about an oil and gas platform, her teacher redirected her to a book on butterflies.
“Now that teacher was not being malicious, she was not being harmful, she was simply exercising her natural bias about girls and boys,” she said.
Gender bias continued to be a problem for women throughout their career, Ms Cecconi said.
“Yesterday, I met an older woman, she’s ready to bail out of an organisation because her views are simply not valued, not heard,” she said.
“She’s a very competent engineer in a male dominated environment, in a male dominated firm, but her peers, most of whom are male, do not acknowledge what she brings to the table in terms of her expertise.”
Plan International is encouraging all Australians to take a pledge for gender equality at www.plan.org.au/idg.