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  • Writer's pictureSharon McCormack

Raising the status of the teaching profession requires addressing the inequalities faced by women

Updated: Apr 28, 2019

The status of the Australian teaching profession is in crisis, so the Federal Government has prompted an inquiry. As the Chair of the House Education Committee, Mr Andrew Laming MP, explained this is an inquiry into how the teaching profession can be better valued. If indeed the government is serious about raising the status of the teaching profession it will seriously need to tackle the inequalities and inequities experienced by a predominately undervalued female workforce.

In the Australian Schools Gender Survey (2018), results found 1 in 2 female teachers in Australian schools and school systems had experienced gender-based discrimination in their workplace. Responses to the survey described both overt and covert forms of discrimination are prevalent in education systems. These included biases in staffing hiring processes to exclusion from professional development opportunities and also in the flexibility offered to women during the childbearing years.

The OECD Education at a Glance Report (2018), suggested that male teachers tend to be promoted to principal positions more often than female teachers as results showed there is an over-representation of male principals in the teaching profession. Such disparities are found in the Australian education systems where there is a disproportionate gender representation in positions of leadership. As the AEU’s has stated, “we cannot ignore the reinforcement of gender stereotypes that occur through disproportionate gender representation in leadership positions.”

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership graph shows the distribution and proportion of teachers and leaders across age and gender.

Additionally, there is also a gender-pay gap between female and male teachers. The NSW Teacher Federation found gender pay gaps in both primary and secondary schools. In principal roles, the difference between the average female and male principal salaries was a gap of 4.2%. As more male teachers found in senior positions in both primary and secondary schools, this equates to a gender pay gap of 5.9% and 2.2% respectively.

Finally, the Australian Education Union (AEU) reports every week within Australian schools the union assists women in negotiating a fair return to work flexible hours after being on maternity leave. This greatly impacts how female teachers experience their transition back into the workplace as they return to work.

All schools, school systems, and educational authorities need to understand the barriers and disadvantages experienced by female teachers. The development of policy work in addressing gender inequalities is required to provide appropriate levels of support relevant to the needs of female teachers so to improve their workplace experiences and conditions.

Addressing the current realities faced by female teachers requires commitment and affirmative action by the government to develop cross-government policies specifically targeting gender equity workplace strategies and practices. It is essential workplace conditions are equal and equitable for all in the profession.

If the goal of this inquiry is to increase the status of the teaching profession, then the government must confront gender biases and discrimination experienced by female teachers. Achieving a fair workplace in all Australian schools and school systems is how the teaching profession can be valued.

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