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Male Champions of Change has an image problem

But if Male Champions of Change removes the word male from its title, what’s left? Another organisation promoting diversity, equality, multi-something, without any real difference or effect. More pink-washing.

New AMP Capital boss Boe Pahari.

New AMP Capital boss Boe Pahari.

One of the challenges facing organisations like this is the impossibility of due diligence on its members. Like White Ribbon, there is no transparency when appointing men to its ranks. You could be a prize misogynist behind closed doors and still be an MCC in public. Rightly, there are membership hurdles: signatories are required to report gender data annually, sign the pledge not to sit on men-only panels, recognise domestic violence as a workplace issue, attend 75 per cent of MCC meetings; have an implementation plan. All worthy.

Australia has its own government-funded champion of change, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, or WGEA, which makes nearly all its data available and gives citations to organisations appearing to do a good job. The focus is on, among other things, developing a gender-balanced workforce; gender pay equity; mainstreaming flexible work; preventing gender-based harassment and discrimination, and ending sexual harassment and bullying. No individual gets special endorsement. Organisations fall off the agency’s list.

No man has ever been sacked as a Male Champion of Change. Those on the MCC list haven’t all signed up for the agency’s scrutiny: Michael Spence, outgoing vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney is a Male Champion of Change, but the University of Sydney doesn’t have a WGEA citation; Alan Joyce is on the MCC list but Qantas is absent from the list, as is the Commonwealth Bank whose chief executive Matt Comyn has signed up as an MCC. There are reams of sporting bodies signed up to MCC. The AFL was a WGEA Employer of Choice in 2018-2019 but didn’t apply for 2019 -2020.

MCC members must have an implementation plan – that’s where the real work gets done. In the 2019 MCC impact report, there were 281 implementation leaders, more than 70 per cent were unnamed women. Of four key goals – overall gender balance, rates of promotions for women, gender balance in recruitment and gender balance in key management personnel – none is at a 100 per cent success rate. The gender balance in key personnel since MCC benchmarking is at a lamentable 63 per cent.


General principles for those who want change: put enforceable quotas in place; ban non-disclosure agreements where the acts instigating those agreements could be breaches of the law, including sexual harassment and discrimination; force all companies to cough up their gender data and change the legislation which governs WGEA to make individual company’s gender pay gap public; give women credit for everything they do to make work a better place and make men responsible for fixing the mess they’ve made. No more rewards, just results.

Jenna Price is an academic at the University of Technology Sydney and a regular columnist.

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