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Thematic Issue: Power, Workers and the Law

Anti-essentialism and Intersectionality: An Analysis of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth) and the Review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth)


Caitlin Konzen and Sandy Noakes

Anti-essentialism demands that sex discrimination is viewed as multifaceted and influenced by additional systems of oppression, including ethnicity, sexuality, and social class. ‘Multiple jeopardy’ assists to reveal limitations of laws that ostensibly address inequalities for women, particularly laws adopting a single axis approach to women’s workplace inequality. The role of affirmative action legislation should be to redress historical discrimination experienced by marginalised groups. However, frameworks of anti- essentialism and multiple jeopardy demonstrate that the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth) (‘WGEA’) and Recommendation 6.1 of the WGEA Review Report: Review of the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (‘WGEA Report’) lack proper consideration of the complex intersectional inequalities experienced by diverse women in Australian workplaces. This further entrenches power imbalances by masking, rather than addressing, intersectional inequality. Prior academic commentary on the WGEA is scarce and has not analysed its lack of consideration for diverse women’s experiences of workplace inequality. Analysis of Recommendation 6.1 is pertinent given the current federal government’s commitment to advancing gender equality as a national priority.

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