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The challenges facing young men and women in the workplace came under the spotlight at the annual Work and Equalities Institute lecture.

The guest speaker was Marian Baird, Professor of Gender and Employment Relations at The University of Sydney Business School, who touched on what support young men and women feel they need today in order to succeed both at work, and at home with their families.

Professor Baird said her own recent research identified three key themes - that women want respect at work, that both men and women want security at work, and that both men and women want good pay at work.

“What we find with our results is that young women acknowledge that there is going to be a real transformation in work practices, and that there is increasing automation of the workforce and the workplace. But they don’t see that as the threat so much. What they see as the threat is the ability of other people to do their work at a lower wage rate, so this becomes an issue of regulation rather than automation.”

Gig economy

Professor Baird added that in terms of the gig economy the current debates in Australia were very similar to those being heard in the UK.

“The debate is about how to successfully regulate those jobs so that people know their hours of work and whether they are being paid appropriately. What we have found in Australia is that many people who work in the gig economy do that as a second or third job, it is not necessarily their first job. But it is rapidly emerging as an area of concern. For instance in Australia a big concern is the issue of wage theft. Are these people being paid appropriately? Are they being paid according to our wage laws?”

She added that she sees many common debates across Europe, the UK and Australia. “I do a lot of work around gender and work, and the big themes are how do we ensure that the pay, hours and pensions gaps of women don’t widen. How do we narrow them? Also, how do we ensure that men have the opportunity to share the care and have access to parental leave? And do we have workplaces where men are not stigmatised for parental leave policies?”

Policy

In order to shift the gender norms and behaviours it was down to companies and organisations to take the lead, she said. “We know from research that policy does matter, but where does leadership come from? A lot of it comes from the organisation itself. We can have government policies that set the standards, but what goes on in the workplace is really critical. We know from research that good management and leadership from the top are very important.”

Watch the video from the event below: