Stop Blaming women for having less money than men

Had my  article published in the Womens Agenda on Wednesday. I get so annoyed when people’s world view does not go extent beyond what they can see at the end of their noise. Women do not have less money than men because they lack the know how to save money. Sexism and gender discrimination put multiple barriers up to women achieving financial security as I point out in my article

Stop blaming women for having less money than men

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Says it all

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Bringing hazard control, courage and vision to community sector strategic planning

We can achieve a better world with planning, vision, courage and determination

This article will not tell you step by step how to write a strategic plan. But I hope it inspires you to ask the big questions about how we can create a world free of the problems that plague our society.   I hope it encourages you to have the courage and with conviction say, “this problem is complex, change will be slow and will require a community, government and community sector response as yet unseen but I will be part of the solution.”

I have recently embarked on a strategic planning journey at my workplace. I was determined that our organisation’s strategic plan would be part of the solution to the problems our organisation was established to tackle, problems such as family violence and gender discrimination. To achieve this aim I found myself bringing together my campaign activist knowledge and taking a close look at how we in Australia manage hazards.

The belief that we are more powerful than the problems that afflict our society has enabled humans to cure incurable diseases, to bring oppressive regimes to their knees, deliver the right to vote to women and people of colour and has ended slavery and child labour in first world nations.  We have seen multiple examples of positive and lasting change resulting from strategic planning, passion, determination and the harnessing of collective power. Despite these positive examples we often fail to start our strategic planning with the question, “What is our role in eliminating the problem we were set up to tackle and how can we be part of the solution?” Unfortunately strategic planning is often constrained and retarded by starting with the aim of managing the problem and co- existing with the problem as best we can.  Instead we end up with a business plan rather than a vision and plan for a better future.  This mind-set can bring nothing but defeat and accommodation. It starts from the premise that problems like racism and family violence are permanent blights on our society that lie beyond the control of not only the individual but organised groups.

We give the worst elements in our society an undeserved strength and legitimacy by accepting them as always having a place in our society. Instead we need to create and promote a vision of a society free of things such as racism, sexism and homelessness.  It is only by creating the vision that we can we start the process of making that vision a reality.

The hazard hierarchy of a control is a system of dealing with identified hazards so that our exposure to them can be minimise and eliminated. The hazards hierarchy of control starting point is always what we can do to eliminate the hazard. It is premised on the assumption that we have power over our environment and can manipulate our environment to make it safe. Co-existing with a hazard is considered a worst case scenario. In contrast many community services planning processes do not involve a discussion of elimination of the problem but instead how can we assist people to cope with a hazard, such as homelessness and discrimination, once they have been exposed and impacted.

One sector which is embracing a vision that involves the elimination of the problem is the family violence sector.  The family violence sector has moved beyond the belief that men being violent is a natural and unchangeable state of being. The sector, while still having to deal with the increasing influx of women seeking assistance, is also strategically planning for the elimination of the causes of family violence. Family violence is shifting from being an unfortunately unchangeable reality to a hazard to be eliminated and in its stead a gender equal society created.

No one thinks that ending family violence is going to be easy or that it will happen overnight. But it was not that long ago that diseases like polio were considered a hazard we had to live with.  By daring to say I can be part of a lasting solution polio has been eradicated from Australia as has many other diseases.

Below is a hazard control hierarchy diagram used by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Below that a demonstration of how an organisation can  utilise the hazard hierarchy of control to maximise impact and clearly position gender inequality, misogyny and gender discrimination as hazards with no place in our community.

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My organisation being a women’s organisation does not want to give misogyny, gender discrimination and inequality any legitimacy. Our organisational strategic planning process, involving staff, our volunteers and the board has embraced the hazard hierarchy of control and has delivered us a powerful platform that will energise us a service and maximise our impact. A platform that acknowledges that while we need to provide protection and services for vulnerable women, any real and lasting solution needs to embraces the entire hierarchy of control.

Our strategic plan brings our collective power, passion, strategic partnerships and extensive knowledge to the tasks of:

  • Eliminating misogyny, gender inequality and discrimination from our society.
  • Replacing gender discrimination with values and behaviours of gender equity, respect for women and equal power relationships between men and women
  • Isolating women from the effects of  misogyny, gender inequality and discrimination that currently occurs in our society
  • Changing work practices to provide best practice service to women and advocate for all level of government and its institutions to instigate work and policy practices that will eliminate and reduce gender inequality, discrimination and misogyny
  • Protecting and empowering women affected by misogyny, gender inequality and discrimination with best practice service provision that enables women to recover and have access to genuine choices.

I know that my small organisation is only a tiny part of the solution. We are a small service operating in one State of one Nation. But by believing in a vision that a gender equal society is possible and planning for such a society our ability to impact and make meaningful change is amplified. Our strategic planning harnesses our hope, our sense of purpose, our partnerships and collaborations and our knowledge and expertise and gives us the fuel we need to be part of the solution and to bring others in the community along for the journey.

I can’t wait till tomorrow!

3/10/2015 Julie Kun

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The Fruits of Feminism: How far have we come

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Just over 20 years ago I was interviewed by Karen Kissane for an Age article on Feminism. For the article The Fruits of Feminism  Karen Kissane asked 12 feminists including Dr Anne Summers , Susan Ryan and Quentin Bryce, how far have we come.

Well 20 years down the track how far have we come? When you read the article it becomes apparent that, the more things change the more things stay the same. More women are in the workforce and we have paid parental leave but many problems still remain. There is still a significant gender pay gap and women do not have access to equal financial opportunity.  In 1994, I was quoted thus : Julie Kun, women’s convenor of the Young Labor Left in Victoria, agrees that the need now is for “in-depth socialisation” to change views that women are the natural carers: “Legislation alone won’t make people see that caring is the work of everyone in society.”

In 2012, the Australian Services Union (ASU) won equal pay for community sector workers. This saw community sector workers receiving  sizable equal remuneration pay increases.  In this historic and ground breaking campaign for pay parity the ASU was able to demonstrate that community sector workers were underpaid because caring work is undervalued.  Even with this significant victory in the last couple of years we have seen the gender pay gap stretch to 18.2%. Fathers are still not taking on the role of primary carer for children; leaving women to put their careers and financial security on hold in order to take on the unpaid and undervalued ,yet vitally important role of raising children.

Lets hope and work towards The Fruits of Feminism, in 20 years time being relegated to an article outlining historical concerns no longer applicable in a truly equal Australia.

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‘Not knowing: the art of turning uncertainty into opportunity’, the perfect book for exploring the the new and unknown

not knowing

We often think of the world as mostly explored and discovered; that domains yet unexplored are to be left to the very brave and the very clever. But everyday we charter unexplored territories. That unexplored territory is the future. Every new day is unknown and unexplored.

Every day we journey into the unknown, unable to control all the variables around us. Some journey into the unknown clinging to the known ,afraid of anything new or unexpected. Others free fall into the unknown, believing that the opportunities the unknown can yield  is worth any pain that might also came with it. Many people are like me, sometimes brave and embracing the unexplored, at other times apprehensive. For me, how freely I venture into the unknown depends on what  I perceive the potential losses and gains to be.

Whether you are a free fall person, a clinger, or like me a bit of both Diana Renner’s and Steven D’Souza’s new book ‘Not Knowing: the art of turning uncertainty into opportunity’  is for you.  The book provides the valuable tools and tips to guide you through the unknown and to turn the unknown to your advantage. The lessons from this book can be applied to the workplace or to your personal life equally well.

I highly recommend people to read ‘Not Knowing’. It is a book full of ah ha moments and provides an opportunity to explore yourself, your environment and those around you in a new way. To find out more about the book and/or to purchase click this link Not Knowing.

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Five workplace practices every feminist leader should adopt

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Five workplace practices every feminist leader should adopt

Feminism: Equality, equal opportunity and not discriminating on the grounds of gender. So, do you just have to believe in these feminist principles to be a feminist leader? Unfortunately it is not that easy. There is more to feminist leadership than being a woman in a leadership role that believes in gender equity.

I was asked  about feminist leadership recently and the first thing that popped into my head  was a woman who would describe herself as a feminist leader telling me with quite an air of authority that emailing was not part of a feminist leadership practice because feminism is about talking. Wow, I thought at the time I am stuffed and so are most of the women that I know to be feminist leaders. So accepting that good feminists can and will email, tweet and even partake in the odd Facebook update, what does feminist leadership look like?

There is no holy grail of feminist leadership practice but there are leadership styles that are feminist friendly.  The leadership style that I have adopted for my leadership practice is highly compatible with my feminist beliefs and is known as adaptive leadership.

Five adaptive leadership practices for feminist leaders:.

See structures:  Leaders often are tasked with creating change to fix a problem. Often the easy response is to look for a simple solution, blame an individual, a department or a piece of equipment. Feminists know that sexism resides in our structures and for lasting and real change to occur it is our structures that must alter. As leaders we must open ourselves to the possibility that the quick fix that may work for a week or even a couple of months may not be the solution. We must look at the structures in which problems reside.  Feminist practice involves a leader seeing beyond the surface of a problem and looking at workplace and societal structures to locate the origin of a problem and not just dealing with the symptoms.

Don’t rush to blame the victim:  How often have we heard that women get paid less because they don’t know how to ask for a pay raise. If only the victim could get their act together their problems would just melt away. Feminists understand that women are often blamed for the disadvantage they experience. As feminist leaders we must not blame the victim we must see what is acting upon the individual or the system they are operating in.  If a woman is getting into work late because she has to drop off her kids at school instead of blaming the woman for being tardy see if there is a way to incorporate a later start into their work routine. Instead of blaming a worker that never gets their job done on time no matter how often you tell them they must meet their deadlines how about asking a curious and nonjudgmental question. Such as what impacts your ability to deliver on time and ask yourself what is in the worker’s control and what is not.

Be honest and create strong relationships: The stereotypical workplace leader is often someone, usually a man who is distant, tough and unemotional.  We are told he needs to stay aloof so he can make the hard decisions he needs to make every day.  He is detached and often uses the hierarchy of the workplace to remain removed from his workforce. Feminist leaders are honest and open themselves up to being vulnerable. Feminists call out sexism when they see it; they say how sexism impacts them, even though they may be seen as weak or just a PC whinger.  As leaders we need to be honest even when we may be criticized or have to make a reassessment about how much we as an individual are contributing to a problem. Honesty can also make as vulnerable. The honest truth may be, I don’t know enough to make a decision at this time or I worry that my staff can’t complete tasks as well as me that is why I rather just do things myself even if it is not my job. By being honest with ourselves and others we can create lasting relationships built on trust and tackle the wicked problems we face every day. When these strong relationships are in place it is more likely staff will stick with you when the going gets tough and hard and even unpopular decisions need to be made.

Support other women: It is the great feminist tradition to support other women so that they can achieve the same success as you and maybe even more success. Feminists have taken on the boy’s club by forming their own networks. Feminists know the value of working together. In my career I have tried to help women whenever possible and in turn I have some great women mentors that I know are there for me when the going gets tough.  But the best part of this whole system is that the woman you help today maybe the woman that gives you a helping hand tomorrow.

Collaborate: Leaders often talk a lot about themselves, I did this and I implemented that. When I hear leaders saying I,I,I like a broken record the first thing I think, is how hard is your team or followers  going to work for you if they have no ownership in the success. When the chips are down you are going to be on your own.  Great feminist achievements such as the right to vote are never won because of the actions of one woman. Feminists work together sometimes in their thousands and tens of thousands to achieve change.  Feminist leaders throughout history have educated and supported women so that collectively and individually women can grab the nettle of choice and opportunity firmly with both hands. A feminist leader will empower others to achieve. They will work with others openly and with respect to achieve common goals. They will credit others, when credit is due and enable those around them to enjoy the opportunities that success brings and not just hog the lime light for themselves.

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Don’t hop on board the perpetual profit growth express train: Worker’s pay and conditions and the economy

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Today on the tram home I had a flashback to a program my parents used to listen to on the radio about 30 years ago. It was called, The Science Report amazingly that show is still going to air with the same presenter. But I digress.

In this one report all those years ago I can remember a scientist of some description  saying, all this new technology was coming. Robots would make more and more stuff and computers would get faster and faster. And when this all happens we will be living in a worker’s paradise. Dangerous work would be performed by robots or robotic arm like thingys and computers will take away the tedium of office work amongst other things.   Workers would be able to get the same pay if not more for less hours work because productivity gains would be so great. And all the workers displaced by robots and computers would work in the hospitality industry. An industry that would be massive, as cashed up workers with  heaps of free time would just be itching to spend their wages on recreational and leisure activities. Okay, that is a bit simplistic but you know what I mean. In short productivity increases were going to be good for all of us, workers and their families, shareholders an company owners.

Well we have the super fast computers and the robots. Productivity has increased. But workers are being expected to work longer hours and now there is increasing talk by several industry peaks most notably that retail sector that business can no longer be expected to pay workers any extra if they work on the week ends and in-turn  miss out on family time and other social events held on weekends and public holidays.

How did we go from a world where productivity gains were going to make Australia a better place to one in which workers are more and more being required to be available 24/7 with no or little compensation and weekends and family time is a luxury afforded only to some. Where a worker earning $20 – $25 an hour, that’s $40,000.00 to $50,000.00 a year is repeatedly told by industry leaders and politicians, that they that are greedy and it is their fault the economy is failing. A world when according to 2013  ABS  statistics about 22.7 % of  Australian workers have no entitlement to paid holiday leave because they are casual or sub contractors.

Is it because companies and their share holders demand increased growth and profits every year. If a company does as well as last year but no better it  is seen as a failure.  This puts us in an insane situation in which workers will always need to work harder and do so for less money in order to satisfy the demand for increased growth. It is like shoveling coal into a steam train. The more you shovel the faster the train gets but you must shovel more and more coal,  faster and faster in order to keep the train going faster and faster.

You would think continually keeping the train going ever faster would be impossible but  NO, industry and our politicians have a solution. Make the coal shovellers work longer hours,cut their wages so more can be employed. Don’t worry that now the coal shovellers can’t afford their mortgages,this is all about the train, the train must forever  be going faster. And the scary part is that the vast majority of us without question think that as long as the train keeps on going faster we will be better off. When in fact what has enabled the train to go faster is workers ,the average Joe and Joanne Blow being worse off.

So where did we go wrong?  The scientists all those years ago talking about shorter working weeks assumed that industrialists and big business would share the gains of productivity with us ordinary folk but  instead they got richer and called everyone else  greedy.

When you hear politicians and big business saying all we need to do is work harder for less just ask yourself ; how come big business does not expect their CEO’s and top executives to make the same sacrifices as ordinary workers? In America, CEO wages have increased 725 percent from 1978 to 2008 that is 127 times faster than other workers.  

Challenge the spin doctors that say ,if you look after big business  it will look after you. Challenge those that say, all will be fine just as soon as we get rid of or reduce penalty rates, overtime payments and  cut wage increases.

Ask yourself All will be fine for whom ?

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