Illalong News

  • 19th October, 2018

From the Principal's Desk

There are many people who have written about equality, about discrimination and the way in which we so willingly ‘judge the book by the cover’, whether it be related to our gender, religious beliefs, race or that resulting from differences in our physical appearance/ability and/or developmental differences. There are indeed many wise words which have been spoken on this topic, and yet we still have high levels of discrimination in both conscious and subconscious thought.

In all the readings I have seen, one of the most eloquent and simple messages comes from model Andreja Pejic, “All human beings deserve equal treatment, no matter their gender identity or sexuality.” The equal treatment spoken here is due to all people, regardless of any perceived difference or otherwise, and yet we just cannot seem to get this right.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (https://www.humanrights.gov.au/education/face-facts/face-facts-gender-equality-2018) provides numerous facts about gender equality as given below:

About gender equality in Australia

  • Women and girls make up just over half (50.7 per cent) of the Australian population.
  • While women comprise roughly 47 per cent of all employees in Australia, they take home on average $251.20 less than men each week (full-time adult ordinary earnings). The national gender ‘pay gap’ is 15.3% and it has remained stuck between 15% and 19% for the past two decades.
  • Australian women account for 68% of primary carers for older people and people with disability.
  • 95% of primary parental leave (outside of the public-sector) is taken by women and women spend almost three times as much time taking care of children each day, compared to men.
  • In 2017, Australia was ranked 35th on a global index measuring gender equality, slipping from a high point of 15th in 2006. While Australia scores very highly in the area of educational attainment, there is still a lot of progress to be made in the areas of economic participation and opportunity and political empowerment.

These facts, as well as others on this web page, make clear we have much work to do. Some organisations have taken the view that they will guarantee an equal distribution of senior roles to men and women, whereas others have mandated that they will achieve such a distribution on their Boards.

Is this really what we have to do? Is this really equality? I don’t think it is.

I believe this is, in itself, discrimination. The question is, why do people believe they have to resort to such artificial measures to provide the impression of equality? I think the answer lies in the fact that too many organisations and, dare I say, men exhibit such discrimination against women and simply continue to see the world through a gender-biased lens, thereby preventing genuine equality of opportunity.

Our College has never sought to create a deliberate gender balance on our Senior Leadership Team or indeed our Board but has maintained a very deliberate approach to appoint only the ‘best applicant’ for every role. Interestingly this has resulted in an equal mix of gender on both our Senior Leadership Team and our College Board. This has not been an intentional outcome but has resulted from a truly unbiased approach with respect to gender, and with the simple aim of always choosing the best applicant for the job.

When organisations truly provide equality, they do not mandate a certain number of positions for males and a certain number for females, but rather they do not see gender at all, only noting the qualities and skills that the person brings – gender has no bearing. It is actually truly simple to do and such a nice solution, so why can we not achieve this?

Our College is co-educational, and it is my hope that we are raising young men and women who will not value a person in the years ahead through the lens of gender, race or any other differences we are known to have, but rather truly provide equality in terms of opportunity and respect to all. I cannot believe that we are born with discrimination in our hearts or minds. I believe it to be a learned behaviour – but there are those who will take on the nature versus nurture debate. I believe we are hard-wired to identify characteristics in people, but to treat people differently according to such differences is learned.

Sadly, many of the people who do discriminate on the basis of gender are indeed men – many of whom are married to a woman, or who have a daughter. We are all created equal, but it is our treatment of each other which has created such discrimination. Organisations who do not truly search for the finest applicants, and thereby discriminate against people for whatever reason, are poorer for their behaviour. They miss out on untold benefits because they do not have the best people working for them, nor do they have a culture that enables genuine and sustainable growth.

Each of us has an opportunity in every encounter with another person to pre-judge, prejudice, or discriminate against them, or do what is right – treat people with true and genuine respect and seek to know the person. As William Ward once stated, “When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves”.

There is something in this for us all.

Brian Grimes

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