Australia's workplace gender equality boss Libby Lyons says we all have a role to ensure women do not get sidelined in moves towards economic recovery.
Ms Lyons, in speaking to Women's Health Grampians, Victoria, on Wednesday, said women had borne the brunt of the pandemic both in frontline work and job losses, particularly when the latter was in casual or part-time positions.
In moving towards a COVID-normal, Ms Lyons said culture change was needed. Key to this was for businesses to focus on outcomes-based workplaces rather than "presenteeism" and encouraging men to formally take up flexible work arrangements.
Ms Lyons said it was concerning when surveys reinforced poor culture in showing men could hardly wait to get back into the office while women found it easier to juggle domestic and community duties in working from home.
It's incumbent on everybody to keep calling this out...We deserve and need the exact same opportunity as men to reengage in the workforce as we move into the economic recovery.Libby Lyons
"We've done it tough but I think it's incumbent on everybody to keep calling this out, reminding everybody we are half the population," Ms Lyons said. "We have been at the frontline, we've been holding up the health service, we've been holding up the aged care sector, we've been holding up the sectors at the frontline.
"We deserve and need the exact same opportunity as men to reengage in the workforce as we move into the economic recovery. Keep the spotlight on gender equality that's really important."
Ms Lyons is the Australian government's Workplace Gender Equality Agency director. She spoke, from her Sydney base, for the WHG annual general meeting which was hosted virtually from Horsham. The meeting featured women from across the Grampians sharing their troubles with gender equality in job cuts during the pandemic.
WGEA oversees the statutory reporting to gather gender equality data from more than 10,000 employers.
Ms Lyons said data was "terribly important", and employers like data, but data did not tell a story. The agency's biggest issue, Ms Lyons said, was getting the right information to employees and empowering them to drive change to benefit all.
Data shows 39.3 per cent of Australian management positions were held by women and well on the way to gender balance within 10 years. But this "fell off the cliff" when looking at 17.1 per cent of chief executive officers were female.
"A lot of recruiting for senior roles is done by men and men only. In trying economic times, too often it's easier to go for someone who is educated like you, looks like you and sounds like you," Ms Lyons said.
"...There is a culture we also have around being a CEO of an organisation working all hours...We need to change the way we think and the way flexible work works - this does not just mean working from home, this also means compressed weeks and job-sharing."