Jobs and Skills Summit: Andrew Forrest Calls Women the Great Unsung Giant of the National Workforce


Rising numbers of women in the workplace dominated the start of the Albanian government’s Jobs and Skills Summit – with mining billionaire Andrew Forrest calling women the “great unsung giant” of the national workforce.

Arriving on the first morning of the summit in Canberra, Mr Forrest said he hoped the two-day event would seek to help “vulnerable populations” and increase women’s participation in the labor market.

“I feel very strongly that we need to have a greater female workforce,” said the founder and executive chairman of Fortescue Metals Group.

“We are making a major effort at Fortescue to increase the number of women in our leadership and in our workforce, and I think the women in our workforce are the big unsung giant, who we don’t use.

“I would like to see a global cooperation of people to put aside their minor interests and think about the value of our great nation.”

In opening remarks at the summit, Grattan Institute CEO Danielle Wood said one of the most important economic levers government has to increase productivity and maintain full employment is increasing women’s participation. to the labor market.

Ms Wood said Australia was just behind Japan and South Korea for the most gendered division of domestic labour, with women taking on by far the largest share of unpaid work – leading to a direct drop in income weekly.

She pointed to improving access to affordable childcare and revamping paid parental leave to make it more generous for both men and women as “an important catalyst for change”.

Improving the pay and conditions of early childhood educators – a workforce facing “serious shortages” and overwhelmingly dominated by women – was another priority.

“As a society, we don’t mind when billions are routed to new roads to shave minutes off travel times,” Ms Wood said.

“Yet we have not made the necessary investments to ensure that some workers can get to work.”

Toll Group Express CEO Christine Holgate has said only 3 million of Australia’s 13 million women work full time as she calls for changes to be made in the “crisis” to get more women into work.

“Personally, I would like us to change the way we measure unemployment. Unemployment today includes part-time workers,” Ms Holgate said.

“We complain about not having enough super. We won’t have enough super for your generation if our generation doesn’t make sure we start tackling the crisis of female underemployment.

“This country needs to do a lot more to get women back to work. I want to see a real commitment to education and training for the future.”

Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott, said there was “a great opportunity ‘to increase the country’s economic growth’ if workplaces employed Australians with disabilities.

“First and foremost we need to raise our expectations of what people think we can do,” he said.

“We are ready to work. We deserve a choice if we want to work. But a lot of people with disabilities don’t have that option because people think we can’t do it.

“Of the 4.5 million people with physical and non-physical disabilities, only 53% of them are in work. Why is that? It’s because of unconscious bias, negative stigma and lack of opportunity.

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