When she first started work as a garbage collector, Jennifer Khan, 65, ignored the advice of friends and co-workers who feared she would not keep up with the boys.
Ten years later, she is one of City of Sydney Council’s most experienced members of the cleansing and waste team and has no plans to retire any time soon.
“I think I’ll work till I’m 70 if my health lets me. I love it,” she said.
“No one seemed to think I’d be up to it.
“When I finally did get the job, it was a bit intimidating at first and there weren’t many guys who would stop and have a chat with me. They seemed to think I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them and that they’d have to behave differently because a woman was around.”
It all changed after her first run emptying bins on the back of a mini-compactor truck.
“After going on a few runs, I was essentially one of the boys. They realised that I could keep up with them and I wasn’t to be underestimated,” she said.
Ms Khan is among women who have made inroads in traditionally male-dominated fields.
But on the whole, n labour markets remain highly segregated, according to submissions to a Senate inquiry into gender segregation in the workplace. Gender segregation is one of the largest underlying factors of the gender pay gap.
A submission to the Senate inquiry from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows six in 10 ns work in an industry dominated by one gender. Women tend to dominate lower-paid jobs.
The most senior roles are heavily male dominated and only 37.4 per cent of all management jobs are filled by females. Women represent 69 per cent of all part-time employees.
The report says Department of Employment job figures show that since 2010, employment in male-dominated industries declined, including manufacturing and mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing.
Employment in traditionally female dominated industries such as healthcare, social services and education has increased.
The Work and Family Policy Roundtable, representing academics from universities nationwide, says the “degree of occupational segregation in the n labour market shows little sign of change”. There was only a 0.1 per cent change in the proportion of females in 20 occupations representing 50 per cent of all employees between 2006 and 2011.
Marian Baird, Professor of Gender and Employment Relations at the University of Sydney, said women interested in working in male-dominated areas should not be prevented from doing so on the basis of gender.
“The workforce is still highly segregated. A sixty-five-year-old garbage collector is an exception given the segregation in our workforce,” she said.
Professor Baird said new jobs were emerging in the highly feminised care sector but these jobs were mainly lower-paid and lower or semi-skilled work.
“Overall there is occupational segregation and within organisations the higher you go and the better the pay; typically there are fewer women in those jobs,” she said.
Lord mayor Clover Moore said women made up nearly 40 per cent of the City of Sydney Council workforce.
Women represent 43 per cent of all management positions at City of Sydney, including chief executive.
“Many of our staff work in areas traditionally dominated by men,” Cr Moore said.
“Last year we conducted our first gender pay equity survey and found the City’s gender pay gap is 2.5 per cent, well below the public sector average of around 12 per cent and the national gap.”Continue Reading →