Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard says women could be left behind if men return to office
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Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard says women could be left behind if men return to office

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard has warned that working from home could penalize women who risk becoming “invisible behind a screen” as men return to the office.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard says women could be left behind if men return to office

Ms. Gillard said women were likelier to work from home to take on caring responsibilities and could therefore miss professional opportunities.

She commented during a panel discussion on gender equality in the workplace hosted by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, which she founded in Canberra on Wednesday.

“We know that domestic and caring work is not distributed fairly,” Ms. Gillard told the Australian National University’s predominantly female audience.

“If nothing else changes in five years, we will see that women – especially women in the family formation phase – have disproportionately chosen to work from home and that men are much more regular in the office.

“And if nothing else changes, it will show who is eligible for a promotion, who is eligible for sponsorship and mentorship, and who gets the best training opportunities.”

Camera icon Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard said women could be disadvantaged by working from home because they are more likely to take on caring responsibilities. NCA NewsWire/Andrew Taylor Credit: NCA NewsWire

Mary Wooldridge, director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, said she wanted the option to force private companies to report gender pay gaps.

“The next level is about transparency… We’re doing it at the industry level, but not at the individual company level,” she said at the ANU event.

Ms. Wooldridge said WGEA also began work to collect broader diversity data beyond gender and pay.

“(What) we need to figure out how we support employers to accurately capture that information in the first place,” she said.

“We are on our way to what I find very exciting”.

WGEA was created after the Gillard administration passed the Gender Equality in the Workplace Act in 2012.

Camera icon Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard chaired a panel on gender equality in the workplace at the Australian National University. NCA NewsWire / Andrew Taylor Credit: NCA NewsWireCamera, IconThe panel included Mary Wooldridge, director of the agency for gender equality in the workplace, Niki Vincent, commissioner for gender equality in the public sector, Dr. Jane Gunn, a partner in charge of KPMG’e People & Change Practice, and Geraldine Chin Moody, Non-Executive Director of Future Super Group. NCA NewsWire/Andrew Taylor Credit: NCA NewsWire

Ms. Gillard noted that Wednesday’s event coincided with the swearing-in of the Albanian government’s new ministry, which includes a record 13 women, including 10 in the cabinet.

Speakers on the panel threw their support behind improved access to childcare after Ms. Gillard asked them what their three wishes from the new Labor government would be.

KMPG partner Dr. Jane Gunn said the issue of childcare affordability for working women was “high on the agenda” at her company.

Ms. Gillard made a rare return to the political spotlight to support the final phase of Anthony Albanese’s campaign, declaring that Labor would be a “government for women”.

Labor pledged to spend $5.4 billion before the election to make childcare cheaper. Mr. Albanian promised this would cut costs for 96 percent of Australian families.

Labor has also pledged to have an industry review by the Productivity Committee to eventually introduce a 90 percent universal subsidy for all families.