Young Australian women are still fighting for equal pay, respect and opportunities in the workforce, according to a new report from researchers at the University of Sydney and The Australian National University (ANU).

It found the second dataset collected for the Australian Women’s Working Futures Project saw little progress since the first survey in 2017, despite social movements such as #MeToo and the significant workforce disruption of COVID-19 in the intervening years.

Professor Rae Cooper AO, from the University of Sydney, said the findings paint a picture of frustration for women still striving for the same opportunities as their male colleagues.

“Women are telling us they are sick of being spoken down to and passed over for opportunities. Legislation is important, but it’s not enough – we need to think about the systemic bias and cultures of our organisations that devalue and discriminate against women,” Professor Cooper said.

“It’s a no-brainer for lifting productivity growth that we get this generation of young women not just working but enjoying their work and being valued for their contribution.”

The report draws on data collected by Ipsos for University of Sydney and ANU as part of a larger three-country study.

The survey features responses from 1,000 women and 1,000 men aged 40 and under in Australia, the UK and Japan, revealing commonalities in their expectations from work and differences in their perceptions.

Seventy-one per cent of men agreed men and women are treated and listened to equally in their current job, compared to 61 per cent of women. Seventy per cent of men agreed men and women have the same chance for promotion, compared to 62 per cent of women.

Study co-author Professor Ariadne Vromen, from the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, said that post-pandemic the labour market for workers under 40 is still going through “immense change”.

“Our survey shows that finding job security remains a top concern for both men and women, but there are significant hurdles to getting that security,” she said.

Younger workers are still more likely than older workers to be employed in casual jobs without access to set hours, sick leave or annual leave.

“Working from home was forced on more than half the workforce during pandemic lockdowns, but that experience seems to have shaped future preferences for workers under 40. Before the pandemic, 52 per cent of men and 62 per cent of women aged under 40 never worked from home,” Professor Vromen said.

The survey also found 77 per cent of Australians under 40 want to work from home between one and five days a week, but only 38 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men currently do.

“This preference could have huge consequences in a tight labour market,” Professor Vromen said.

“Most of the jobs of the future are in the service and caring economy – all of which require in-person work. Employers will need to think about how they can both meet demand for new jobs and give younger workers more balance in where they work.”

Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill, also from the University of Sydney, said a lack of respect can prevent women from fully engaging in their workplace.

“Women were more likely than men to report wanting respect at work. It was their number one desire, over job security, flexibility and pay,” Associate Professor Hill, who is a co-author of the study, said.

“They’re also thinking more about the cost of living when considering starting a family and deciding how many children they want. Women were far more likely than men to consider access to and cost of childcare in their family planning, which reflects gendered expectations around unpaid care work.”

The research is published at the University of Sydney website.

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