Apr 30, 2017 Last Updated 9:25 AM, Apr 12, 2017

TACKLING the glass ceiling, equal pay for equal work. Just some of the women’s rights movement mantras advocating that gender equity and equality can generate a successful and productive workforce. The reality, however, is overt or hidden discriminatory practices, gender biased assumptions, and patriarchal ideologies persist and generally confine women into lower status jobs, with less pay, less opportunities for growth and less satisfaction from the work.

Often the debate between employers and employees is about cost benefit analysis and profit margins. But surely good business practice is also about investing in human capital which also means providing women with adequate access to healthcare, education and employment, you lose at least half of your potential? Pacific Community Gender Adviser, Brigitte Leduc, says there is growing availability of evidence that when more women work, economies grow.

“An increase in female labour force participation—or a reduction in the gap between women’s and men’s labour force participation—results in faster economic growth,” Leduc said. But don’t just take the word for gender equality and women’s rights advocates. In 2015 the McKinsey Global Institute published The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth which affirms that advancing gender equality in the world of work is closely tied to tackling gender gaps in society.

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Gulf in women, men wages

UN HDI Report reveals status of gender disparities in Pacific

PACIFIC island nations still have a lot of work to do in order to bridge the gulf in the disparities in wages between men and women workers, a new United Nations report has revealed. In its 2015 United Nations Human Development Report released on 14 December, Fiji is the island nation with the largest gap: income per capita for men being US$10,592 compared to women’s Gross National Income per capita of US$4,274. That’s a gap of US$6,318.

Comparatively, the per capita difference in income of men and women in Samoa and Tonga was US$3,708 and US$2540 respectively. Vanuatu had a US$1,031 difference, while other islands like Solomon Islands and Vanuatu had only the per capita figure for men. Equally worrying is the figures on violence against women.

While Fiji, Tonga, Palau and Papua New Guinea did not submit figures, Samoa had the highest figure of 75.8% of women who had suffered some forms of violence at the hands of their partners. Kiribati gave a figure of 73% while Solomon Islands had 64% and Vanuatu 48%. On the global UN Human Development Index, Palau scored the highest among Pacific Island Countries....

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Stop the bias

Shameem: Comprehensive training will assist judges, magistrates to eliminate or minimise male bias

A PACIFIC-WIDE robust policy was necessary to eliminate or minimise not only gender prejudice but all forms of biasness and hate crimes, so says constitutional and human rights lawyer Shaista Shameem in response to a recent report on judicial sentencing in the Pacific.

The report on judicial sentencing practices of SGBV, including sexual assault and domestic violence cases by the International Center for Advocacy Against Discrimination (ICAAD) established the role of gender discrimination in sentence reductions in more than 50% of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases in the Pacific Island Countries (PICs).

Shameem, a former Director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission says gender violence, violence against children and violence of a sexual nature must be dealt with in a more sustainable way, or else reports such as the one produced will “make us merely wring our hands in despair and not do much else but lament.”

She points out that such violence was part of a broader and more malignant pattern of incorporating uneven distribution of traditional status and power, wealth disparity in modern societies, unsound social welfare policies ....

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Women condemn police reaction

The spectre of rape has clouded the halo of happiness in Vanuatu in recent months and led to robust debate about women’s place in society. Late in June police issued a media release in Port Vila concerned that they were now dealing with up to three rapes in the capital each week. Widespread international research over many years has shown that there are probably as many, if not more, unreported sexual assault cases in any time frame and country as are reported. The police media release had been prompted by the rapes of two women in separate attacks near a popular night spot on the edge of Port Vila’s CBD.

In one of those cases, among those later charged by police was a 12-year-old boy. Police said that one of the female victims was a married woman in her early 30s who had been out clubbing or similar with friends while her husband was at home. The police media statement was critical of this, saying she should have been at home with her husband. This immediately triggered a strident reaction from women’s groups around the country, incensed that women should be portrayed in this manner.

They said it diverted attention from the key issue of the rape of an innocent woman to something that should be irrelevant. But they also admitted that it was an accurate reflection of how numerous men viewed women and their place in Vanuatu society. In 2008, a group of women formed Women against Crime and Corruption and their chairperson and Vanuatu’s leading female activist, Jenny Ligo, said its formation came after the kidnap of a woman in Port Vila.

“We were concerned then that the victims were not being treated fairly in the system and not given enough attention,’’ she said. “And most of those victims were women and children and nothing has changed in Vanuatu as far as the victims are concerned. Often these victims are voiceless, so we have become their voice. “With the married woman raped in Vila recently, the attention focused on her being out without her husband and not on the fact that she is the victim and that is just so wrong. “A married woman being out at night is no one else’s business except between her and her husband. “Women should be able to move around both day and night without fear of being attacked and that is the real issue.’’

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Goal is equal representation

A new benchmark claiming a world first for women is being touted in the South Pacific by Australia and the region’s oldest and 200-year-old company – Westpac. Embracing a need for greater gender diversity at senior management and board levels, Westpac has left no stone unturned in the last four years under its influential Chief Executive, Gail Kelly. With her push for women in top hierarchy of the bank’s echelons, she has not compromised on profits as Westpac seeks another stellar year of results in 2014. Kelly is considered one of the most powerful Australian women in modern day business world in Asia/Pacific – sitting at the helm of an entity that now spans across various continents and around Oceania. Her popularity primarily stems from her push for being proactive about promoting women in the bank. “We set a goal to have 40 per cent of our senior executives as women by 2014,” Kelly disclosed to the media in Sydney at her annual lunch with senior women executives of Westpac. “But we achieved that by 2012. Now we have a new goal of having equal representation of women and men in our senior management ranks by 2017,” she declared at the lunch which Kelly started in 2010 to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Kelly’s women concept: She said that multi-billion profit-making Westpac – now with full-fledged branches in six South Pacific countries; the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu – has a broader vision for women in the bank’s future. When it comes to women on top, Westpac had “become a magnet” and a benchmark for other leading organisations in Australia and around the business world in Asia/Pacific. Emulating on Westpac’s success recorded since Kelly took over the reign in 2008 organisations around the region – be it business, government or not for profit - began hiring women because of the depths of its ranks.

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