Friday 27 October marks National Teacher’s Day – a time to reflect on those who fulfil support us to educate and form our children. They give generously, work tirelessly, and their impact is both profound and long-lasting.
On the face of it, this highly feminised workforce is a good employer of women – in 2015 women made up 62.6% of Education and Training employees, they receive generous paid parental leave and the opportunity to extend parental leave up to the fifth or seventh birthday of the child (depending on which state you are in).
But WGEA data suggests all is not equal: female teachers tend to be concentrated in lower level and part time roles; making up 82.8% of part-time workers, and just 42.1% of key management personnel.
And as submissions to the Human Rights Commission reveal, the challenge for those taking parental leave is in the return: the negotiation of flexible work arrangements, accommodation of part time into timetables and acceptance that those who do work part time can still perform leadership roles presents challenges within the sector.
It’s hard to believe that even in education, there is still a gender pay gap: while the industry overall has the second-smallest gender pay gap across Australia, currently sitting at 9.3%. But with changes in the NSW public sector meaning that teachers who take five years off to have children will be downgraded to a beginner-teacher salary when they return to work, this is only set to increase, not to mention the impact on their super.
It is incumbent on all of us striving for gender equality that statistics and experiences of discrimination in the education sector are included in our solutions. When women are economically empowered, its good for families, communities and our nation. So let’s start asking the questions of the education boards in principals and address gender inequities in our education systems too.
Watch this interview with a teacher and mum we love for tips on navigating parental leave.