Australian governments have made gender equality in the workplace a priority, citing women’s enhanced engagement in the workforce as essential to raising living standards and securing Australia’s future prosperity (Commonwealth of Australia 2017). But Australian women and men do not participate in the labour market as equals, and employment and economic outcomes remain unequal and highly gendered. What will it take for gender equality to be part of the future of work in Australia? In this paper we report on the Australian Women’s Working Futures Project (AWWF) 2017. This new and unique study by an interdisciplinary team at The University of Sydney focuses on the experiences, values and aspirations of young working women aged 16-40 years. Young women are the core of the future workforce, but rarely the subject of research.
The AWWF Project 2017 shows that young women value job security, predictable and regular hours, decent pay, and the opportunity for respect, control, and influence in the workplace. Access to the right skills and qualifications, support and mentoring, and paid leave to care for family are all cited as important to women’s future success at work. Young women are job-orientated and want to advance their careers. They actively plan for the future and intend to have children. But most women do not think they are treated the same as men at work and only half think gender equality at work will improve in the future. The AWWF Project 2017 shows many Australian workplaces are not providing young women with what they value or need to succeed in the workplace, and public policy settings are not ready to meet young women’s aspirations for the future of work. Government and business must urgently redouble efforts to promote legislative and policy initiatives that will deliver Australian working women gender equality in the future of work. The paper concludes with a number of policy recommendations.