One Step Forward: Two Steps Back? Women and Affirmative Action: A case study of the Victorian Teaching Service


Research Paper 33 1995-96

Dr Margaret Malloch
Consultant to Social Policy Group

Contents

Tables

Major Issues

The effectiveness of affirmative action programs is currently being questioned in both Australia and America. A case study of the Victorian Teaching Service illustrates many of the concerns increasingly being raised.

As the tables in this paper show (also see Appendix 1), while the percentages of women in promotion positions in the Victorian Teaching Service have fluctuated, women have neither rushed into, nor been able to obtain, positions of greater status and responsibility in education in significant numbers as a result of Affirmative Action policies and plans. In the primary division, in 1978, 28 per cent of school principal positions were held by women; in 1994, 18 per cent. In secondary schools, in 1971, 20 per cent of principal positions were held by women; by 1994, 15.9 per cent. Women now form approximately 48 per cent of secondary teachers and 75 per cent of primary teachers. The figures for women in the teaching service as a whole, and in promotion positions, have remained much the same over the last ten years.

EEO legislation and affirmative action plans have raised awareness of gender equity issues, but go only part of the way to making changes for women in the world of work. The broader societal context has also to be considered. The labour market in Australia has always been highly segmented, with women's jobs almost by definition the lower paid ones. The segregation of women into a narrow range of the work force has actually increased since equal employment opportunity and affirmative action policies and plans were introduced. Women still have unequal access to salary, superannuation and permanency of employment.

While EEO legislation and affirmative action plans are not in themselves enough to change substantially the lives of women, laws and policies which are part of a total package of commitments to gender equity (addressing issues such as access to education and training, salary, flexible working conditions, health and child care, taxation and transport, equitable divorce and welfare benefits) would assist both women and men in our society.

In the case of the Victorian Teaching Service, a decade of EEO affirmative action plans, aimed at women teachers as individuals, has left organisational structures basically unchanged. A more strategic and hard-hitting approach, aimed at changing institutional structures and values, and perhaps even including the imposition of quotas, appears to be required.

Introduction

The focus of this paper is an assessment of the effectiveness of affirmative action policies, using the Victorian Teaching Service between 1986 and 1992 as a case study. It was in this period (1986, 1989 and 1992), that Affirmative Action Plans were introduced by the Victorian Ministry of Education. The aim was to increase the number of women in senior administrative positions and provide improved career opportunities in the Victorian Teaching Service. Other goals were to identify and remove discriminatory practices and to redress the impact of past discrimination. The Action Plan goals are detailed in Appendix 2.

An original research study (1) was made of the policies, implementation strategies, and effect of the three Action Plans of the Victorian Ministry of Education. The gathering of statistical information was difficult because of changes as to types and methods of information kept by the Ministry. For example, data collected from 1991 onwards is tabulated and presented differently from earlier data. At times gender specific information was unavailable. The ongoing restructuring of the Teaching Service created a greater and changed range of position classifications.

The field work carried out included interviews with members of the Consultative Committee for Equal Employment Opportunity for Women in the Teaching Service, and Senior Executives from the Personnel, Human Resources and Equal Employment Opportunity management sectors with responsibility for the implementation of the policies. Interviewees are not identified by name in this paper. Archival material including minutes of meetings, discussion papers and reports was drawn upon.

It is argued that the lessons from this case study can be extrapolated to other government ministries, state and federal, and the private sector.

This paper begins with a definition of the terms used and an outline of the Australian approach. It goes on to provide background on the Victorian experience, outlines the thrust of its three Action Plans and attempts to assess the results. Concluding that these have been disappointing, the paper attempts to identify what more or what differently can be done.

Background

Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity: definitions

In America recently, affirmative action has come under attack as disadvantaging the majority by providing preferential treatment based on race and gender. (2) There, affirmative action has been implemented through the establishment and implementation of quotas. Affirmative action in Australia has been introduced as part of a legislative framework at both Federal and State levels, with an emphasis on the establishment of targets rather than quotas, and on changes to processes in recruitment and promotion.

Equal employment opportunity is a broad term covering strategies to improve women's position in the labour market. (Like 'anti-discrimination' it can also apply to other disadvantaged groups). The idea is to use proactive measures to open up a greater range of jobs to women as a group, and to ensure that women can compete on equal terms with men for promotion. Ziller's definition of equal employment opportunity reflects its application in Australia:

Equal Employment Opportunity refers to the right to be considered for a job for which one is skilled and qualified. It is the chance to compete with others and not be denied fair appraisal or excluded during this process by laws, rules or attitudes. Equal employment opportunity is the operation of the principle of recruitment and promotion on merit. The test for equal employment opportunity is the outcome of selection and promotion procedures. Only the successful passage of qualified women and migrants through these procedures...is convincing evidence that equality of opportunity in employment exists. (3)

Anti-discrimination legislation applies to individual cases and forbids such actions as refusing to hire a woman for a job merely because of a preference for men in such jobs. Action under such legislation is case by case, and each case must be established retrospectively.

Anti-discrimination legislation is one means towards equal opportunity and the principal means for achieving this goal is affirmative action. This is defined in the federal government policy paper Affirmative Action for Women as:

a systematic means, determined by the employer in consultation with senior management, employees and unions, of achieving equal employment opportunities (EEO) for women. Affirmative Action is compatible with appointment and promotion on the basis of the principle of merit, skills and qualification. (4)

Affirmative action is defined in the Victorian Ministry of Education Action Plans for women in the Teaching Service as:

a systematic means, determined by the employer, in consultation with unions of achieving equal employment opportunity. It is not positive discrimination, is not an introduction of quota systems, but is part of a total equal employment opportunity policy which enables the redress of past discrimination whilst ensuring that all employees have equal access to the promotional opportunities on the basis of merit, skills, and appropriate qualifications. An affirmative action program is a planned, results oriented, management program designed to achieve equal employment opportunity (5).

These definitions focus on merit. Equal employment opportunity (EEO) is used as a term to describe the opening up of employment, education and training to women with affirmative action as the means by which this is to be achieved.

The Report, Halfway to Equal, by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, (6) noted that the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and the related Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986, have had a significant impact on increasing equal opportunity and equal status for women in Australia. It noted that while achievements for women have been significant, there was still a long way to go. It noted also that 'At the time that the legislation was introduced, public knowledge of and acceptance of gender discrimination was not widespread. Indeed the passage of legislation was accompanied by a deal of cynicism and even fear as to repercussions.' (7) This was also the Victorian experience.

The participation of women in the Victorian State Education System

The 'lack' of women in educational administration in Victoria has long been documented and identified as a problem to be addressed. Schwarz's report, Women in the Education Department of Victoria in 1984 (8), in which the facts and figures were starkly presented, served as a catalyst.

Systemic and direct discrimination against women teachers in Victoria meant that until 1956 upon marriage a woman teacher had to resign from a permanent position, and if re-employed, work as a temporary teacher, at a lower salary. Until 1970, in secondary and technical schools, women teachers could be principals only of girls' schools, schools for the disabled or one teacher schools. Until 1971, women teachers did not receive equal pay. Until 1972, women teachers could not be principals of primary schools, with the exception of schools for the disabled and one teacher schools. (9)

Examples of indirect discrimination included no confinement leave until 1956. Until 1975, married women were unable to join the State Superannuation fund. Until 1984, permanent parttime work was not available and when introduced was available only for assistant class teachers. (10)

By 1986, the year of the first Affirmative Action Plan, women in the Victorian Teaching Service had gained some advances towards equal employment opportunity. Equal pay was won by 1971. From 1972, women could apply to be principals of the full range of school types. Primary women teachers were placed on a Common Roll (a listing by seniority in the primary teaching service). From 1974, eighteen months unpaid confinement leave was available. In conjunction with the teacher unions, working conditions were altered to make superannuation conditions more equitable: married women were able to become regular contributors and their partners no longer had to prove dependency in order to inherit. Part time work was introduced. From 1985, 7 years' family leave became available to teachers, female and male. (11) It could be argued, however, that these changes to women's working conditions occurred parallel to, rather than as a result of, the Affirmative Action Plan.

Administrative duties in schools traditionally and historically have been, and continue to be, overwhelmingly carried out by men. Porter, Warry and Apelt (12) refer to an Australian College of Education survey of the Australian Teaching Service in 1989. There were at the time 20 per cent more female teachers than male in Australian schools. However, 13.5 per cent of men compared with 3.7 per cent of women held administrative posts. In government schools there were slightly more men than women in the 41-50 age range. There were also more men employed on a permanent basis. There was a bigger percentage of females teaching infants and primary school children. In all other sectors males predominated. Career intentions showed an almost equal number of males and females intended to apply for transfers in the next three years. Twice as many men as women however intended to apply for promotional transfers, and twice as many men attended training courses related to administration. More women than men attended courses on school curriculum subject matter and teaching processes, while more men attended courses in areas such as school improvement and staff appraisal.

In Victorian school administration, the percentage of school administration positions held by women has showed gentle fluctuations, but no steady increases. In secondary schools, between 1971 and 1988, the percentage of women principals declined from 18 to 9 per cent and in technical schools rose from 8 to 14 per cent. (13) Women as a percentage of total principals in post-primary schools rose from 11 per cent in 1989 to 16 per cent in 1994, while the proportion of women teachers in these schools remained steady at about 48 per cent. Women as a percentage of principals in primary schools declined from 28 percent in 1978 to 18 percent in 1994.

Table 1. Women in Classified Teaching Positions: Primary Division, Victoria, 1978 to 1994

                  (% of classified positions)
                  ---------------------------

Period              Principals       Teachers
---------------------------------------------
1978                        28             69
1979                        27             69
1980                        24             69
1981                        21             69
1982                        21             69
1983                        18             70
1984 PRIN A                 12             72
1984 PRIN B                 23             72
1984 PRIN 1                 17             72
1985                      16.6             72
1986                      16.4             72
1987                      15.3           72.5
1988                      16.3           75.9
Jun-89                    14.6           71.4
Jun-90                    15.5           72.3
Jan-91                    16.5             72
Jan-92                    17.6             71
Feb-93                    19.4             74
Mar-93                    19.4             75
1994                        18             75
---------------------------------------------
Source: EEO files, MOE. 1993; Workforce Planning, MOE, 1994

Table 2. Women in Classified Teaching Positions: Secondary Division, Victoria, 1971 to 1988


       (% of classified positions)
       ---------------------------

Year        Principals   Teachers
---------------------------------
1971                20         *
1972                20         *
1973                18         46
1974                18         47
1975                16         47
1976                18         49
1977                16         50
1978                12         51
1979                12         52
1980                12         52
1981                12         52
1982                11         52
1983                11         52
1984                12         52
1985                10         56
1986                 8         53
1987                 9         51
1988                 9         52
---------------------------------
* not available

Source: EEO files, Ministry of Education, 1993

Table 3. Women in Classified Teaching Positions: Technical Division, Victoria, 1970 to 1988


          (% of classified positions)
          ---------------------------

Period        Principals    Teachers
------------------------------------
1970                   2          16
1971                   8          13
1972                   6          15
1973                   8          15
1974                   8          19
1975                   9          18
1976                  12          18
1978                   3          21
1979                   2          22
1980                   2          23
1981                   2          24
1982                   2          24
1983                   3          25
1984                   6          28
1985                 8.6          32
1986                   9          28
Jun-87              10.7        30.5
1988                13.6        31.2
------------------------------------
Source: EEO files; Workforce Planning Unit, MOE, 1994.

Table 4. Women in Classified Teaching Positions: Post-Primary/Secondary Schools, Victoria, 1989 to 1994


           (% of classified positions)
           ---------------------------

Period          Principals    Teachers
--------------------------------------
Jun-89                11.0        47.4
1990                  11.8        48.2
Jan-91                12.2        47.0
Jan-92                13.9        47.3
Feb-93                14.5        49.1
1994                  15.9        48.5
--------------------------------------
Source: EEO Files; Workforce Planning Unit, MOE, 1994.

The Action Plans

In 1977, the Victorian Government passed an Equal Opportunity Act, establishing an Equal Opportunity Board and making discrimination in employment on the ground of gender illegal. Against the backdrop of the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984, and the national pilot program for the Affirmative Action policy, the Victorian Government passed the Equal Opportunity Act 1984, refining and extending the 1977 Act. (14)

Following the establishment of a Public Service Affirmative Action Plan, the Victorian Director-General of Education, Dr. Norman Curry, in May 1985 formed a committee, the Consultative Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity in the Teaching Service (CCEEOTS), to prepare an affirmative action plan for the Teaching Service. The Committee comprised representatives from the Education Ministry, regional administration, the Education Ministry Equal Opportunity Unit, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Women and Girls, the Teacher Unions and school administrators. Three Action Plans were developed and published in the following seven years.

The Victorian Ministry of Education's Affirmative Action policies and plans were formulated and implemented with the expressed purpose of increasing the number of women in leadership and management positions in the state education sector, that is, in teaching, the senior executive service and the public service of the Education Department of Victoria. Other goals of the Action Plans were to identify and remove discriminatory practices and to redress the impact of past discrimination - direct, indirect and systemic. The Action Plans for Women in the Teaching Service were published in 1986, 1989 and 1992.

The first Action Plan

The 1986 Action Plan aimed to increase the numbers of women in administrative and promotion positions and in nontraditional female teaching positions, and to make improvements to recruitment and selection, training and development, career structures and opportunities and working conditions.

The first Affirmative Action (or EEO) Plan for the Victorian Teaching Service was described as a systematic means, determined by the employer, in consultation with the Unions, of achieving equal employment opportunity. It was stressed that it was not positive discrimination, nor a quota system. It was presented as a way of providing equal access to promotion on the basis of merit, skills and appropriate qualifications. (15)

Senior Executive Service officers, regional and central, were to oversee implementation of the Action Plan. Principals were responsible for school level implementation. A range of committees, reporting mechanisms and processes for budget bids were established. EEO consultants were to visit schools and a state wide EEO network was to be established. All Ministry policy committees were to include female representation.

Recruitment and vacancy positions were advertised as open to both men and women. Teaching areas with low numbers of women were to be analysed, and strategies developed to increase female representation. All selection panels were to include a balance of men and women with appropriate training, including in EEO awareness, interview techniques and report writing. Training programs for women teachers in selection and promotion processes were introduced. Women's awareness and understanding of assessment procedures and promotion prerequisites were to be increased. Women were to be encouraged to take part in school administration and organisation.

Administrative tasks assigned at school level and job profiles were to be analysed. Gender bias was to be eliminated from forms. Proposals to require the implementation of EEO policies in the Teaching Service Act were to be developed. (16) Parttime work was to be introduced, an analysis of working conditions was to be carried out, and leave provisions and superannuation re-entry provisions were to be examined. Temporary employment was to be examined to establish if there was discrimination against women, and action taken to remove it should it be found to exist. (17)

The 1986 Plan was a 'top down' policy initiated by senior personnel and adapted by a representative committee of management and teacher union personnel. Objectives, strategies for change, target groups, and persons responsible were identified, target dates and performance measures were set, and accountability was emphasised. An annual audit of the Action Plan was to be carried out. The Plan was widely distributed. However, the 'achievements' of its implementation have not been widely publicised.

The second Action Plan

The second Action Plan, for the years 1989-1991, also focussed on increasing the number of women seeking and gaining promotion and 'allowance' positions in teaching.

The major objective of the second Action Plan was to increase the number of women in principal and promotion positions in schools, and in the School Support Teaching Service (SSTS). 'The Ministry of Education has the goal of achieving equal employment opportunity, that is, having women represented at all levels of the system in proportion to their numbers in the Teaching Service.' (18) To achieve this, specific affirmative action strategies were to be used to encourage women to apply for assessment and promotion, and discriminatory practices removed. Merit was still emphasised as the key selection criterion for promotion and advancement. 'Acceptable behaviour' was defined, with a new focus on improving personnel management throughout the public service system. Targets defined as quantitative objectives, voluntarily set by an employer as the minimum progress which could be realistically made in a set time, were established. A specific percentage was set of 40 per cent of promotion/allowance positions in schools, or a number in proportion to the number of women in the school, whichever was the greater. Targets were seen as 'guides or plans of action to remedy discriminatory practices against a particular group', but not compulsory requirements. (19)

The first Action Plan was referred to as the first phase of a continuing process of policy development, monitoring and audit. (20) The second Plan stated that:

The aim of the first Action Plan was the identification and subsequent removal of discriminatory practices in teacher employment, and the redress of the impact of past discrimination. The Plan was successful in creating awareness of equal employment opportunity (EEO) issues in the Teaching Service, and in gaining commitment to an affirmative action program which would enable women teachers to have equal access to promotional opportunities on the basis of merit, skills and appropriate qualifications. (21)

The need for a more focused approach was stressed: '...the Action Plan has identified a small number of action areas which give rise to specific objectives and measurable outcomes.' (22) Statistical information on the representation of women in administration positions in schools was provided:

In March 1987, 62 per cent of all teachers employed in the Office of Schools Administration were women. The proportion of primary teachers who were women was 75 per cent. Yet only 21 per cent of Principal Class, Grade A positions and 12 per cent of Principal Class - Grade B positions were held by women. At Band 1 level, the basic level representing the vast majority of primary assistant teachers, women represented 86 per cent of staff.

The percentage of women secondary school teachers was 57 per cent, yet only 8 per cent of principals and 14 per cent of Deputy Principals were women. In technical schools, women made up 32 per cent of the Assistant Class but held only 9 per cent of Principal and 17 per cent of Vice Principal positions. (23)

These figures are representative of the trend throughout the 1980s: no great heights, no deep troughs, and the number of women in administration in education not as great as in the 1970s. The Plan referred to analysis by the Appointments Board to show that women proportionately had a higher success rate than men in gaining appointments to the Principal Class, but far fewer women than men applied for promotion. Research findings were then referred to, indicating that women were deterred from applying for promotion because of not being encouraged to see themselves in leadership roles, not being encouraged to apply for promotion and not being provided with opportunities to gain administrative experience. Recognised as influential factors were family commitments and lack of geographic mobility. 'Job descriptions and selection processes which equate preferred leadership styles with characteristic male patterns of behaviour further discriminate against women, and lead selection panels to continue to assess merit in a discriminatory way.' (24)

Second Action Plan strategies included providing women with the experience of being on assessment panels, encouraging women to apply for promotion, and to appeal, and establishment of regional networks of women teachers for support, encouragement and career advice. (25)

The second Action Plan was less prescriptive than the first, focussing more on quantitative goals. Again, although some of the goals were achieved, and increased awareness of and participation by women did occur, the targets set in the Plan were not reached.

The third Action Plan

The third Action Plan, for 1992-1994, also concentrated on increasing the number of women seeking and gaining promotion positions. Groups not previously referred to were included, including Kooris and people with disabilities. Child care was a feature of this Plan, with a recognition of family responsibilities. The Plan was launched shortly before the state election of 1992.

The third Plan highlighted as successes of the earlier Plans: the creation of awareness of equal opportunity issues; the gaining of commitment to affirmative action programs that enable women to have access to promotional opportunities on the basis of merit; increasing the application and appointment rates of women for principal class positions; and the trialing of innovative programs such as the Eleanor Davis Memorial Project (a professional leadership skills development program for women). It was recognised that change would be slow, that the number of women in principal class positions remained at an unacceptably low level, and that there was a need for continued affirmative action strategies to address this.

Affirmative Action - Achievements

What has been the impact and success of such plans? The goals and objectives, whilst extensive, had as a key focus a numerical aim: the increase of women in administrative positions. This aim was not achieved. Neither do targets set for public accountability appear to have been met. Records required to be kept and reported upon were generally absent from annual reports. While objectives were listed, (26) implementation steps were not included, and implementation of the Plans became intermittent and irregular.

Ten per cent of state professional development funding was supposed to be allocated to EEO work, but difficulties occurred in obtaining this funding. (27) While women were included on selection and assessment panels as Ministry representatives, this usually took the form of a single woman providing the 'gender balance' suggested in the Action Plans.

Advances from the first Action Plan were observable in the many excellent programs for professional development, and persistent hard work by a number of individuals. However there was a problem of a piecemeal and intermittent approach from higher administrative levels. Equal Opportunity Units and resource centres were established within each region, with consultants. Some data collection and reporting was carried out. However, records from regions were inconsistent, and in some cases, reports were not made. (28) The number of female teachers in nontraditional areas, for example, was not monitored in reports from the Ministry, despite expansion in this area being an expressed objective. It was also not unusual for requests to be made after the event, for example on gender breakdown of attendance at professional development programs. (29)

Networking of women in education proceeded positively, with women organising meetings and functions for their professional and personal support and development. However these tended to be organised by committed individuals within the system, rather than by committees or senior staff. In fact, upon occasion, activities proceeded in the face of criticism and lack of funding and support. (30)

The first Plan, it is claimed by its authors, and by senior administrators interviewed, raised awareness and consciousness of equal employment opportunity issues in the Teaching Service. However, there has also been backlash and anger against the Plans. Many people reacted as if personally challenged and threatened. Predictably, some men in the service objected to carrying out the Plan. Some women also objected to the introduction of any special provisions on their behalf: merit was a protective device, they should make it on their own, and they were happy teaching in the classroom. The Plans have occasioned debate, argument and dissension, with expressions of refusal by some officers to carry out the policies or deliberate 'going slow' in the implementation steps. Some adopted avoidance behaviour in the hope that the policy would change or go away before they had to do anything about it. Value systems of a deeply ingrained nature were clearly being challenged with Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action. (31)

Women teachers and middle management

At the senior teacher level of school administration, at middle management position, trends have indicated that the proportion of women is increasing. In the 1980s, the percentage of female senior teachers in technical schools also steadily increased. With the creation of post-secondary schools, the percentage of women holding senior teaching positions has also increased. This has formed a potential pool of women for principal and vice principal positions.

At the middle level of school management positions, the newly (1991) created Advanced Skills Teacher Class also provided an opportunity for women to gain promotion positions. The position was introduced in order to provide promotion and increased salary for those demonstrating exemplary classroom teaching practice and contribution to the working life of the school. Ability to provide educational leadership in the development, implementation and evaluation of a school's equal opportunity strategies within Ministry policy guidelines on social justice was one of the criteria to be met. By 1994 the percentages of women at the advanced Skills Teacher level were, for post primary teachers, approximately 40 per cent, and for primary teachers, up to 82 per cent.

There has been a pattern however that as the proportion of women in school management positions shows any marked increase, the promotional structure is changed. The representation of women in the Senior Teacher position increased steadily between 1981 and 1989. The position was altered to become the Advanced Skills Teacher position. Women were quick to advance into this position, which has recently been replaced by the Professional Recognition position. It is yet to be seen whether the pool of women at the middle level of school leadership and administration go on to senior levels.

One interviewee reflected on the predominance of women in teaching and the impact of various changes:

In the primary division, there's this so called feminisation of the teaching service so women are now 74 per cent of primary teachers and men are 73 per cent of principals, in the principal class and in the early 1970's in the primary division, women were 40 per cent of the principal class and this included women who'd teach at very small schools and as we know in the late '70's and early '80's many schools were consolidated which is the same as amalgamation and women lost out, because the attitude was that they wouldn't be able to do the job. It was as simple as that. It's interesting that when the common roll was first introduced women were 40 per cent of the principal class, as I said, and that was because most women had to have extra qualifications to even get to principal class which men didn't have to do and that of course made them higher up, because men then got to very senior positions with only two years' qualification or else those men were inspectors or higher up. The women never got into those positions of inspector or higher up and as those women died or retired, the statistics got lower and lower and, oh well, the figure, the percentage of women principals got lower and lower and now I think it's round 26 per cent or something and that's how much it's been for the last few years.'...... (32)

Affirmative Action and liberal feminism

Affirmative action policies and programs may be criticised as having shortcomings particularly in relation to long term, systemic change. It could be argued that such policies fit into a liberal feminist framework for change. Middleton purported that:

Liberal feminists investigate the discrimination of career structures and practices and policies and encourage women into management positions and areas of employment non traditional to women. A more equitable distribution of the sexes in the current social formation is an end in itself. (33)

Yates (34) made the point that those putting efforts into increasing the proportion of women in higher positions could be called limited reformers, concerned with changing the shares of the cake, but leaving the unsatisfactory nature of the cake untouched. The local selection of principals was supported as a move towards more democratic education and against bureaucratic hierarchies which in the past had worked against women. However, because of 'democratic' local committees, with rarely more than a token woman and because of ingrained cultural assumptions about what authority and dynamic personality looks like, fewer rather than more women were chosen. 'This is a concern because it is indicative of an ongoing culture of schooling whose assumptions about women's and men's roles and rights have failed to be changed.' (35) Yates put forward the view that promotion of different approaches to the curriculum and pedagogy in the interests of girls and women is in competition with the many other changes currently occurring in education and the broader society, that EEO positions were disappearing and opportunities for promotion dwindling with ambitious men fighting harder than ever for them, and that there was a backlash developing against affirmative action. (36)

Strategies for change

In discussing the Action Plans, one senior executive commented that the Plans were like a sandwich without the filling: that there was a lack of commitment. What, it was asked, does it take to convince male colleagues that there is a case? (37)

Senior executives in interview identified as challenges:

  • the need to get the men in the system to recognise that there is a real need for equality for men and women in the system,
  • to get women to apply for and get into jobs, and see themselves as being leaders, and
  • the cultural reality that some women see themselves as getting to a certain level and going no further. (38)

The identification of potential leaders was regarded as important as was developing individual plans to get women into management positions within a certain period of time. Mentoring was stressed by another interviewee. Flexibility in leave, parttime work and formal facilitation of networks were also put forward as areas for further research and development. (39) Supplementary lists of potential appointees were suggested to encourage women to apply for specific positions. Dedicated resources were also identified, with staff to implement and monitor the Action Plans.

Since 1992, the Action Plans have been replaced by 'Employment Equity Management Guidelines for Schools' published in March, 1994. This is a non consultative, centralised model establishing policies to be carried out at a local level. Each school is to develop an employment equity management policy as part of the staff management section of the School Charter. The School Charter is a statement of a school's policies and procedures developed through the School Council, a copy of which is meant to be lodged with the central education bureaucracy. Mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation are not clear.

Women teachers, it was suggested, could be encouraged to apply for senior positions in the school, given information about and access to professional development programs to build knowledge, skills, and confidence to apply for these. Women could also be encouraged to apply for positions in subject areas in which they were under represented, for example, mathematics, science, technology and computer studies. Requests for Education Ministry representatives on selection panels are to be bought to the attention of women teachers. Networks are to be established to provide support, encouragement and career advice. Assistance is to be provide to women returning from family leave.

Women's position in society

The subordinate status of women can be related to the control that each sex has over the resources valued by society, with men in a stronger position. (40) The then Prime Minister, the Honourable R.J.L. Hawke, in a preface to the 1984 Affirmative Action Green Paper, referred to women taking their place in improved positions in the work force, and taking their place in society. (41) There was a recognition of wasted talents and work power, as justification for special policies to place women in administrative positions and for additional training. This argument lost some of its force in a time of economic recession, high youth unemployment and high male unemployment. The Senior Executive Service in the Victorian Ministry of Education experienced an 'influx' of women in the 1980s; in reality a modest increase of fifteen from zero. By the early 1990s this number had been whittled down and has still not been attained again. (42)

Possibilities/models for change

Equal employment opportunity legislation and affirmative action plans go part of the way to make some changes for women in society and the world of work. Such policies are however vulnerable to the vagaries of economics and, at times of economic depression, restraints and growing conservatism politically, the trend has been for cutbacks to equal opportunity units, staff and programs.

For change to occur, strategies have to be utilised which do more than add a few women into the existing power and organisational structures. Real changes in power relationships between the sexes require fundamental changes in areas such as the home and family. Programs aimed at individual, rather than institutional change, are however more acceptable to organisational management, which doesn't feel threatened for example by short term workshops attended infrequently by limited groups of individuals. Costs to support these programs are minor. This is the type of model upon which the affirmative action plans appear to be based. However individual remedial efforts have very limited benefits if the organisations stay unchanged and newly acquired behaviours experience resistance because of the lack of 'fit' with established interaction patterns in the work situation. Individual models can become a 'blame the victim' approach, whilst ignoring the external influences that create these individual characteristics.

While some changes to generally accepted tenets of work design and organisation can be viewed as acceptable, legitimate and feasible, to bring about structural change to an organisation such as a government department is difficult. Programs such as improvement of selection mechanisms and performance evaluation are acceptable to most organisations, because existing values of work organisations are not challenged. More direct efforts to alter the gender composition of the work force have, however, been strongly opposed. Affirmative action is already seen by some as being against ideologies of individual merit and seniority as the basis for reward.

Reforms such as flexible work schedules and child care are more acceptable, and would also alter the organisational structure. The expansion of sex role definitions and de-emphasis of sex-typed behaviours and occupations are examples of longer term interventions. Work with school administrators on management styles and methods of operation is also necessary. Women may value different characteristics and concentrate on a different set of criteria than men in the supervisory process, and even when trained in a similar approach to supervision, males and females may still bring in gender-based expectations and behaviours. (43)

Conclusion

The focus in the Victorian Teaching Service has been on individual women to succeed in terms of male defined criteria of merit. In schools very little has changed. One interviewee described the situation:

I mean when you're in the central administration too, I've found I tend to get carried away with the concept of having developed a policy and it's over to schools to implement it isn't it. They had to do it, so what's the problem? And then you get out and realise at the schools and find that they have 523 ways of avoiding doing it.

I think that what I observed was that very little had changed. I mean it was as though all that work had been done for nought, it hadn't hit the schools in any real sense... I think the only way we're going to change things for women, to change men in fact, I don't think you can move one end of this jigsaw without moving the other. (44)

Since 1992, the Action Plans have been replaced by 'Employment Equity Management Guidelines for Schools' (published in March, 1994). Each school is to develop an employment equity management policy as part of the staff management section of the School Charter. The School Charter is a statement of a school's policies and procedures developed through the School Council, a copy of which is meant to be lodged with the central education bureaucracy. Mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation are not clear.

To be successful any affirmative action plan must move beyond a focus on individual training and endeavour within (or despite) an organisational structure which can be antagonistic, or inconsistent in application of policy, and where monitoring and evaluation have, up to now, been patchy and data difficult to obtain. Whilst advances in some areas have been made in this past decade, women are certainly not in a position of having equal access to the full range of positions available within the education system.

In looking at the 'problems' faced by women in the workplace, the broader societal, structural context has to be considered:

Equal Employment Opportunity is no longer enough, as it has been minimally effective in some areas, and it has mainly helped already relatively privileged women. There is a better understanding now of the nexus between family, household, labour market and state and more recognition of the specificity and variety of women's experiences. (45)

Segal (46) in writing of equal employment in England, made a comment valid for the Victorian and Australian experience, and that is that 'the legislation which was supposed to improve women's economic situation has had a limited impact'. Women's jobs, Segal states, are by definition low paid ones. 'The segregation of women into a narrow range of the worst paid jobs has actually increased since these reforms were passed.' (47) Affirmative Action policies similarly have not achieved their stated goals. Women still have differential access to salary, superannuation, permanency of employment and to additional allowances for administrative positions.

The 1977 Report to the Premier of Victoria, The Victorian Committee on Equal Opportunity in Schools, (48) stated a belief still pertinent, that it was 'important to view equal opportunity as not merely the possibility of women achieving in the male dominated and defined promotion sphere, but rather as the possibility of women making an impact on the whole structure and definition of a profession in which they, after all, comprise the majority.' Women who do obtain administrative and leadership positions and operate as isolated individuals can find they are treated as 'solos' or tokens situations counterproductive for the individual and for other women.

The Action Plans drew attention to the situation of women in the education system, highlighting their under-representation in administrative levels. Women began to be encouraged to apply for promotion. The importance of female role models was emphasised. A 'climate' of change was introduced. Removing artificial and arbitrary barriers to employment in order to provide employment widens the field to allow classes of people previously excluded to compete for jobs, but there is no guarantee or likelihood that the competition will result in participation at promotion levels proportionate to the number of women in the profession. It is thought that 'hard' that is stronger affirmative action programs giving preference to women may be necessary to achieve proportional representation at all levels. The example of the Australian Labor Party's policy of specific quotas for preselection of parliamentary candidates to have more women in parliament by the year 2002 has been widely cited.

Policies and legislation are not enough in themselves to change substantially the lives and opportunities of women. Women are not the power brokers in our society. However, laws and policies which are part of a total package of societal reform (covering issues such as access to education and training, employment, salary, flexible working conditions, health and child care, taxation and transport, equitable divorce and welfare benefits), would assist both women and men.

Constantly there are reminders that change is slow and patience required; the need for education, cooperation and goodwill continues. The decade has been very much one of one step forward, two steps back.

Endnotes

  1. Malloch, M. A study of the Implementation and Effect of the Action Plans for Women in the Victorian State Teaching Service, 1982-1992. Melbourne, Monash University, February 1995.
  2. Roberts, S. with Thornton, J., Gest, T., Cooper, M., Bennesfield, R., Hetter, K., Seter, J., Minerbrook, S. and Tharp, M. 'Affirmative Action On The Edge'. U.S. News and World Report. February 13, 1995: p.32.
  3. Ziller, A. Affirmative Action Handbook. Sydney: Review of NSW Government Administration. 1980: p.13.
  4. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Affirmative Action for Women. A Policy Discussion Paper. Canberra: Australian Government Printing Service, 1984: Vol. 1, p.3.
  5. Ministry of Education, Victoria, Schools Division. Action Plan for Women in the Teaching Service. Melbourne: Government Printer, 1986.
  6. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Halfway to Equal: Report of the Inquiry into Equal Opportunity and Equal Status of Women in Australia. Canberra: Australian Government Printing Service, 1992: p.XLV.
  7. ibid.
  8. Schwarz, V. Women in the Education Department of Victoria. Melbourne: Policy and Planning Unit, Education Department Victoria, 1984.
  9. Ministry of Education, Victoria, Schools Division. Action Plan for Women in the Teaching Service. Melbourne: Government Printer, 1986.
  10. ibid.
  11. ibid.
  12. Porter, P, Warry, M, Apelt, L. The Genderised Profession of Teaching: Visible Women and Invisible Issues. (Unpublished paper). Queensland University Press, 1992: pp.8-12.
  13. The onset of this decrease was first identified in Sampson, S.N. 'Women and Men in the Teaching Service.' Equal Opportunity Forum. 12. March 1983: pp.11-13.
  14. Larmour, C. Sex Discrimination Legislation in Australia. (Research Paper No. 19). Canberra: Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1993.
  15. Ministry of Education, Victoria, Schools Division. Action Plan for Women in the Teaching Service. Melbourne: Government Printer, 1993.
  16. ibid.
  17. ibid.
  18. Ministry of Education, Victoria, Office of Schools Administration. Action Plan for Women in the Teaching Service 1989-1991. Melbourne: Statewide School Support and Production Centre, 1989: p.8.
  19. ibid.
  20. ibid. p.1.
  21. ibid. p.8.
  22. ibid. p.5.
  23. ibid. p.5.
  24. ibid. p.5.
  25. ibid. p.9-13.
  26. Ministry of Education, Victoria. Annual Report. Melbourne: Government Printer, various, 1986-1994.
  27. Ministry of Education meetings, 1987-1992.
  28. Ministry of Education, Victoria, Equal Employment Opportunity Branch. Archives. Boxes 11, 12, 13 and 15.
  29. Ministry of Education meetings, 1986-1992.
  30. ibid.
  31. ibid.
  32. Malloch, M. Interviews with senior administrators and CCEEO members, Ministry of Education, Victoria, 1986-1993.
  33. Middleton, S. 'The sociology of women's education as a field of academic study.' in Arnot, M. and Weiner, G. (eds). Gender and the Politics of Schooling. The Open University, London: The Academic Division of Unwin Hyman Ltd. 1987: p.78.
  34. Yates, L. Some Dimensions of the Practice of Theory for Practice in Relation to Gender and Education. Unpublished paper presented to the Conference on Gender Issues in Educational Administration and Policy. Geelong: Deakin University, 1987.
  35. ibid. p.9.
  36. ibid.
  37. ibid.
  38. ibid.
  39. ibid.
  40. Nieva, V.F. 'Equality for Women at Work: Models of Change' in Gutek, B.A. Sex Role Stereotyping and Affirmative Action Policy. Los Angeles California: Institute of Industrial Relations. University of California: 1982: pp.81-125.
    Nieva argued that men may be perceived as controlling a wide array of resources valued by society - power, money, land, political influence, legal power, intellectual and occupational resources, and women controlling a greatly limited set sexuality, youth, beauty and the promise of paternity.
  41. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Affirmative Action for Women. A Policy Discussion Paper. Canberra: Australian Government Printing Service, Vol. 1, 1984.
  42. Ministry of Education, Victoria, Workforce Planning Unit. Workforce Statistics. 1990-1994, and personal communication with the author.
  43. ibid.
  44. Malloch, M. Interviews with senior administrators and CCEEOTS members, Ministry of Education, Victoria, 1986-1993.
  45. Pettman, J. Living in the Margins. Racism, Sexism and Feminism in Australia. North Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1992: p.151.
  46. Segal, L. Is the Future Female? Troubled Thoughts on Contemporary Feminism. London: Virago Press Ltd. 1987: p.43.
  47. ibid. p.43.
  48. The Victorian Committee on Equal Opportunity in Schools Report, 1977. Victorian Government, 1977: p.100.

Abbreviations

AA
Affirmative Action
AST
Advanced Skills Teacher
CCEEOTS
Consultative Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity in the Teaching Service
EEO
Equal Employment Opportunity
EO
Equal Opportunity
MOE
Ministry of Education
PT 4
Primary Teacher, Level 4
SRP
Special Responsibility Position

Appendix 1

Table 5. Women in Classified Teaching Positions: Secondary and Technical Schools, Victoria, 1981 to 1988


                      (% in classified positions)
                      ---------------------------

Classified        Year           Secondary   Technical
position
------------------------------------------------------
Principal
---------
                  1981                11.8         2.3
                  1982                10.7         1.6
                  1983                10.3         3.1
                  1984                12.0         6.0
                  1985                10.3         8.6
                  1986                 7.8         9.7
                  1987                 8.4         9.7
                  1988                 9.9        12.8

Vice Principal
--------------
                  1981                16.9        16.2
                  1982                15.2        15.5
                  1983                13.4        15.4
                  1984                12.0        15.0
                  1985                11.4        16.8
                  1986                13.0        17.4
                  1987                14.8        17.8
                  1988                18.1        20.0

Senior Teacher
--------------
                  1981                22.7        10.8
                  1982                24.0        12.0
                  1983                24.3        12.6
                  1984                25.0        13.0
                  1985                23.8        15.2
                  1986                24.7        17.0
                  1987                25.0        17.6
                  1988                25.5        19.0

Assistant with responsibility
-----------------------------
                  1981                33.3         9.5
                  1982                33.6         8.9
                  1983                33.5         8.5
                  1984                34.0         8.0
                  1985                35.1         8.1
                  1986                36.1         8.3
                  1987                36.0        11.0
                  1988                36.1        14.2

Assistant
---------
                  1981                57.7        26.9
                  1982                24.0        27.1
                  1983                28.0        22.6
                  1984                59.0        28.0
                  1985                35.1        31.4
                  1986                59.0        30.9
                  1987                59.8        32.3
                  1988                61.1        34.0

Total
-----
                  1981                51.1        23.7
                  1982                51.7        24.1
                  1983                52.2        24.7
                  1984                52.0        25.0
                  1985                52.9        28.0
                  1986                53.4        28.9
                  1987                58.1        35.6
                  1988                54.6        31.1
------------------------------------------------------
Source: Computer Services, Ministry of Education.

Table 6. Women in Classified Teaching Positions: Post-Primary Schools, Victoria, 1989 to 1994


                 (% in classified positions)
                 ---------------------------

Class         Year        Proportion women
------------------------------------------
Principal
---------
              1989                    11.0
              1990                    11.8
              1991                    11.8
              1992                    13.9
              1993                    14.5
              1994                    15.9

Vice Principal
--------------
              1989                    18.4
              1990                    20.3
              1991                    20.1
              1992                    22.0
              1993                    25.6
              1994                    25.5

Senior Teacher/Advanced Skills Teacher
--------------------------------------
              1989                    22.0
              1990                    21.9
              1991                    21.9
              1992                    37.6
              1993                    40.8
              1994                    42.2

Assistant
---------
              1989                    57.9
              1990                    58.8
              1991                    58.5
              1992                    58.8
              1993                    56.7
              1994                    61.0

Total
-----
              1989                    46.7
              1990                    48.2
              1991                    47.8
              1992                    47.3
              1993                    48.9
              1994                    48.5
------------------------------------------
Source: Analysis of Teaching Service Personnel Employed,
Computer Services and Workforce Studies Unit, MOE.

NOTE. Classifications for secondary assistant class teachers were
altered from 14 to 16 subdivisions in 1991. Ministry tables
showing the number of staff per classification were listed for
each sub-division level in the assistant class. The Assistant
with Responsibility Allowance was replaced by Coordinator and
Special Responsibility Positions.

Table 7. Women in Classified Teaching Positions: Primary Schools, Victoria, 1983 to 1990


                                (% in classified positions)
                                ---------------------------

Year       Principal      Band 4      Band 3      Band 2      Band 1       Total
                                                                      classified
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1983            18.2        18.4        34.3        61.8        83.1        70.3
1984            17.0        18.2        35.8        62.5        83.9        71.9
1985            16.6        18.0        37.3        63.6        84.4        71.6
1986            16.5        17.6        39.8        65.3        85.1        72.3
1987            16.3        17.9        41.3        66.1        86.0        73.4
1988            15.0        21.2        45.4    (a)28.0         87.7        74.9
1989            15.2        24.3        23.7        44.4        87.0        71.4
1990            15.5        25.6        46.5        69.1        82.8        71.7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(a) Band 2 head teachers only - total class information not available.

Source: Computer Services, MOE.

Table 8. Women in Classified Teaching Positions: Primary Schools, Victoria, 1991 to 1994


                                   (% of classified positions)
                                   ---------------------------

Year   Principal      Vice-      PT 4      Head     AST    SRP       Teaching        Total
                   principal            teacher                classification   classified
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1991        19.5        26.4       *       28.7    49.9   70.2           86.1         72.4
1992        17.7        42.9     23.5      30.3    70.4   71.9           87.9         73.0
1993        19.2        40.9     23.8      29.9    74.5   71.9           88.7         74.2
1994        18.6        40.0     23.8      29.9    82.2   63.5           89.7         75.1
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* This classification was introduced in 1992.

Source: Computer Services, MOE.

Appendix 2 - Goals of the Action Plans

The first Action Plan

The Affirmative Action Plan is seen as a result - oriented management program involving:

  • commitment of senior management
  • full consultation with the union
  • analysis of the current position of women
  • review of all employment practices to ensure they do not directly or indirectly discriminate against women
  • develop programs to respond to collected data, and
  • monitor and audit equal employment opportunities.

    The aim of increasing the numbers of women in educational administration and non teaching areas to be achieved by implementation of the objectives:

  • Awareness, commitment and implementation

    To develop awareness of, and commitment to, the need for and the implementation of the Action Plan for Women in the Teaching Service.

  • Recruitment, selection and promotion

    To ensure that fields for the recruitment into the Teaching Service contain representative numbers of eligible women.

    To ensure that selection and promotion processes within the Teaching Service are not gender biased.

    The overall objective is to increase the numbers of women in administrative and promotion positions and in non traditional female teaching areas.

  • Training and development

    To ensure that eligible women have access to training places, that specialised training needs of women are recognised and that training courses conducted within the Teaching Service are free from discrimination and contain relevant EEO material where appropriate.

  • Career structures and opportunities

    To ensure that career structures and opportunities are designed in such a way that they do not disadvantage women and that women are encouraged to develop their careers.

  • Working conditions

    To improve working conditions for all staff members, paying particular attention to the working conditions of women. (Ministry of Education, 1986).

The second Action Plan

The first area designated was an increase in the number of women:

  • seeking and gaining assessment for promotion positions;
  • gaining appointment to promotion/allowance positions both in schools and in the SSTS. (Ministry of Education, 1989).

The target was specific: the number of women holding promotion/allowance positions in each school/workplace to be in proportion to the number of female staff, or women to hold 40 per cent of promotion/allowance positions in the school/workplace, whichever is greater. The target group was women teachers in schools and the School Support Teaching Service not in the principal class.

Representation of women in Principal Class positions in both schools and the School Support Teaching Service (SSTS) was to be increased. The targets were: '(a) the number of women occupying Principal positions in primary and post-primary schools and in the SSTS will be at least doubled by the end of 1991; and (b) in post-primary schools which have more than one leadership, i.e. Principal Class positions, at least one position to be filled by a woman.' Task allocation for women in schools and the SSTS, the provision of appropriate professional development to enable women to gain the skills and self confidence necessary to advance their careers, and education of assessment and selection panels in differences between male and female modes of presentation and leadership styles to overcome any biases in selection procedures were to be analysed. (Ministry of Education, 1989).

The important principles to be observed included:

  • recruitment on the basis of ability,
  • knowledge and skills in open competition,
  • promotion and advancement on the basis of efficiency in open competition,
  • all officers to be treated equally without regard to political affiliation, race, colour, religion, national origin, sex, marital status or physical disability,
  • equal pay for work of equal value,
  • employees to be used efficiently and effectively,
  • employees to receive effective education and training,
  • and to be protected against arbitrary treatment. (Office of Merit Protection, 1984).

The third Action Plan

The aims were to increase the number of women seeking and gaining promotion and allowance positions in the teaching service, increasing the number of women on committees and selection panels, increasing the number of primary women teachers gaining assessment, providing women teachers with administrative experience, providing training, including EEO responsibilities for panels, providing professional development and establishing networks to assist all women in gaining promotion. Merit based selection was emphasised.

The other major objective was for equal opportunity and equal treatment for teachers with family responsibilities. Child care was to be provided during working hours and for professional development outside of working hours, providing child care to increase women's participation in the democratic decision making processes.

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Acknowledgments

This is to acknowledge the help given in producing this paper from Adrienne Millbank, Consie Larmour, Geoff Winter, Greg McIntosh, Mary Lindsay, Robyn Seth-Purdie, Singnary Outhay and Jane Chapman of the Social Policy Group.

 

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