This article is authored by Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing (WOW) Higher Degree Research student member, Carolina Bouten-Pinto, and was first published via LinkedIn’s Pulse blog on 28 October, 2015

Yesterday, I attended the ‘So what does gender and diversity at work look like? symposium at Griffith University. The symposium is organised twice a year by the Equity, Diversity, and Gender in Employment (EDGE) group of the the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing …. The participants were treated to food for thought by the followingpresenters.

Prof. Judith Pringle from Auckland University of Technology presented her thoughts on the gender pay gap. The key message I walked away with was that although we seem to attribute this gap to individual choice and stereotypical feminine characteristics such as an inability to negotiate effectively, it is the wider context of a neo-liberal agenda that positionspersonal responsibility and the need to overcome personal deficits, over the collective responsibility of a society to address inequality. It is this that, according to Judith, may contribute to the difficulties experienced by women who raise this issue in the workplace, and as a barrier to overcome this issue in society.

Following from here, Dr Irene Ryan from Auckland University of Technology provided her insights into research she conducted on behalf of the NZ Army on critically examining what skills and experiences are necessary for progression in the senior commissioned officer ranks, and how personnel can satisfy these criteria. Her presentation focused on her reflections on her experiences as a researcher, whilst doing the research, and the learning and insights she gained from engaging in the process of research. A wonderful example of the need to develop a deep understanding of the context in which research is conducted in order to actually understand andframe research findings. I thought is was great to hear from someone else who also reflects deeply onthe context in which one works.

Dr Shalene Werth of the University of Southern Queensland presented her and Dr Charlotte Brownlow’s work on research they conducted on women with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the workplace. It surely provided us with food for thought on a complex set of issues that are not well researched. Their preliminary findings highlighted some interesting information relating to why these women leave positions, what strategies they employ in order to remain functional in the workforce and insights into the barriers they face. Again an area of research that at this juncture probably provides more questions than answers, but which undoubtedly will contribute to the widening of inclusion and diversity research agenda.

Speakers and participants at the October, 2015 wEDGE symposium

Speakers and participants at the October, 2015 wEDGE symposium

Dr Jen de Vries’s presentation focused on the everyday gendered practices in building careers. She focused on raising the question whether sponsorship really is the missing ingredient in women’s career progression, by exploring three key aspects of sponsorship: (1) the under the radar informal practice of sponsorship, (2) the need to name sponsorship and make it visible, and, (3) the light and dark sides of sponsorship. She examined the role of the sponsor, the impact of sponsorship on careers, who is sponsored and why, and the role of sponsorship in building workplace cultures. Her exploration exposed sponsorship as a key gendered practice that creates and sustains inequality in career outcomes.

The final presentation was based on research conducted by Prof. An Fan Suo of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies and Dr Kaye Broadbent from Griffith University on the experience of current migrant women workers in Guangzhou, China. These women, in contrast to studies conducted in the 1990’s, are now often married, with children, and often remain in the cities after marriage. Their data shows that married women are discriminated against, as they work longer hours per week and per day, and their monthly salaries are the lowest amongst all workers. It suggests that the gender ideology which characterises women as ‘good wives, wise mothers’ persists.

The Symposium, besides providing insights into the ongoing research conducted by the presenters, also provided the participants with an opportunity to share their own research, network and further the inclusion and diversity agenda. If you are interested in learning more…go[or contact the Centre Manager: [email protected] or phone 07 3735 3714].