Professor Kim Rubenstein is a legal scholar whose work focuses on active citizenship and gender. She is also co-director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra and a Fellow of both the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of Law.
In her conversation with investigative journalist Ginger Gorman on our new podcast Seriously Social, Kim discusses how gender is playing out in all kinds of surprising ways during the pandemic, from decision-making at a national scale to domestic work on the individual level.
Working from home is highlighting the disproportionate load of domestic work. Can WFH enable a better work-life balance for women?
Back in the 1990s, I had set up a home office so that I could have two days a week where I could focus on my research. It was very enabling. I was able to use my home space to further my work objectives. And that setup then made it so smooth for when I did have my two kids to be able to create a framework where I worked from home. And that enabling framework meant that I was able to be both an active citizen in my public policy life work as well as being an active and central member of a family scenario.
What needs to change to create environments where men are actively and equally engaged in parenting?
Another part of the puzzle is about getting men on board. So, framing this as not just a women’s issue. It’s a societal issue. It’s for men also. And one of the heartening aspects, I think, of the Male Champions of Change movement is the recognition that men have a role to be playing. And it’s not only that movement, of course. There are others within society, other men who have been saying, ‘This is an issue for me as much as it is for women’.
How has the pandemic revealed that our work and home lives are not mutually exclusive?
In my role as co-director of the 50/50 Foundation, I am thinking very strategically about how we can ensure that women are in places of leadership in equal numbers to men by 2030. But in order for that to be structurally possible, for it to be a real and enhanced experience for those women who go into those leadership roles, we have to think what impact does that have on the private sphere? And the reality at the moment is that women have the disproportionate responsibility in the private sphere, and that has a direct impact on their capacity to be equal in the public sphere.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently recorded a Facebook Live address in her track pants after putting her child to bed. Is this a new era of work?
Jacinda Ardern is continually being returned to as the absolutely excellent example of leadership that is different to the entrenched style of leadership. So, it’s not that we just want women doing what men have been doing before in the same way that men have, but it’s recognising that leadership is gendered. That we need a diversity of people’s life experiences to enlarge our sense of thinking about what good leadership is.
You can listen to the full episode at seriouslysocialpodcast.org.au or on your favourite podcast platform.