It's been tacitly known or at least suspected for a long time - Indigenous mothers who are also caregivers face the highest risks of discrimination and exclusion in the workplace. Now a new report by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency has put some figures to it for the first time.
The Gari Yala (Speak the Truth) Gendered Insights Report follows up on the original Gari Yala report last year, which examined the workplace experiences of Indigenous employees, and looks more closely at the specific pressures faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the workplace.
One major pressure is a lack of support when they experience racial discrimination, with only 26.3 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women saying they feel they have access to the workplace support they need. In comparison, 43.7 percent of the men felt supported.
Women also felt slightly more identity strain - the pressure related to feeling that their identity does not match the cultural norms or expectations of the broader workforce - and significantly more cultural load, or the pressure to take on the workload of advising the organisation on Indigenous issues and even educating non-Indigenous co-workers about racial issues. The report highlights that this is in line with mainstream gender research finding that women in general are more likely to be saddled with unrecognised and uncompensated extra work.
On top of this, the Gari Yala report finds that all these issues are exacerbated if the woman in question is a caregiver: she is more likely to work in an organisation where she feels culturally unsafe, she is less likely to have support when she faces racism, and she carries the highest cultural load - a 'triple jeopardy' of workplace discrimination that essentially makes her life much harder than it ought to be.
What can employers do?
The report has a series of suggestions for employers who are serious about making their workplace culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women:
- Commit to unearthing the truth of the situation in the workplace, however uncomfortable, and acting on it
- Focus on cultural safety in the form of workplace readiness rather than worker readiness
- Educate non-Indigenous staff about how to interact with their Indigenous colleagues in ways that reduce identity strain
- Recognise that cultural load is part of an employee's workload, and remunerate it
- Consult with Indigenous employees on how to minimise cultural load while maintaining organisational initiatives relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and cultures
- Focus on sustainable careers and career development
- Look to high-impact initiatives that are provably linked to better well-being and retention for Indigenous staff