|While definitely not a union for women only, the AEU prides itself on the progress we have helped deliver for women who work in education and within the broader community. In the early 1900s a career in teaching was very much seen as an obvious choice for women. Caring, teaching, nurturing! Everything women were expected to do. Until of course they got married or had children of their own. Then the world of education was no longer an option for them. In fact, until the 1960s, women in education were still expected to resign when they got married or had a child, they were still paid less than men doing the exact same job and they were expected to take on all of the cleaning responsibilities in a school.
In the early 1970s, a man and a woman both graduating from the South Australian College of Advanced Education with a teaching qualification were still not treated equally. Men were taken aside and offered the generous superannuation pension scheme while women were told they would not need superannuation at all. Equal pay for equal work was not fully achieved for women in education until July 1970, after a long and difficult battle by the then South Australian Institute of Teachers.
To this day, the AEU continues to push for gender equality within education and the broader community.
Given that women make up almost 75% of the workforce in education, they continue to be under-represented in leadership positions in most workplaces. Women in education are predominantly employed in the lower paid and casualised positions and therefore in the 21st century remain extremely vulnerable.
Unfortunately, women educators and women in general are particularly vulnerable to harassment, bullying and other discriminatory behaviour in the workplace and rely heavily on their colleagues and their union for support in these situations. The AEU continuously works to promote equity, to eliminate discrimination and to support women in achieving work/life balance through workload protections and improved conditions both in education and society.
While we have come a long way towards equality in education, there is still much to be done to get this balance right and to ensure that we do not allow our hard won and justified working conditions to slip away.