Libby Lyons - Frank and Fearless for Gender Justice


Libby Lyons, the straight-talking Executive Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, is blunt in her assessment of what is needed to address some pretty appalling statistics when it comes to women’s workforce participation in some industries.


Speaking at a recent WOBChat, Libby was frank in the need for ‘gender justice’ in Australian workplaces, including the opportunities presented by the COVID Crisis to address critical structural and cultural issues impacting women’s capacity to be fully engaged in the economy.

Put ‘gender on the tender,’ address rigid work practices such as flexibility, parental leave, and employee issues with work life balance in industries with poor female representation 0 in particular construction which Libby singled out as having a ‘toxic culture’ for men as well as women.

In remarks made at UNSW in mid-2019, when she introduced a lecture on “Gender Justice at Work, Power Privilege Change. Why do we need it?”, Libby was reported as saying:

“And there's a subtle culture of denial and resistance to diversity and equality initiatives. It shows that women's access to opportunities in this industry is severely limited by things like the importance of informal networks, focuses on pipeline and cultural fit. The importance of male sponsorship and the importance of strategic alliances with senior leaders and of course, all these favour men, not women. It also highlights how construction work sites exclude women. There's evidence of tolerance and acceptance of sexism, sexist language, sexual harassment, and just plain old sex discrimination.” REF:

Libby was also fulsome in her assessment of the numbers on gender balance – saying “there is absolutely no problem in the pipeline” as the number of women in management roles keeps rising, but ‘drops off a cliff’ when it gets to C Suite, CEO and board level. For all the latest statistics – go to:

Libby was also sobering in her analysis of the gendered impact of Covid 19 – pointing out that in the Global Financial Crisis, the gender pay gap rose 2% in two years and then took 10 to claw back to the previous level. Australia’s current gender pay gap is 14%, but much higher in some industries than others.
She urged boards and employers not to ‘pick the low hanging fruit’ of casual workers when it came to cost cutting as a result of Covid, but to look to the future and evaluate who was best placed to support and grow the business in the new climate.

Libby finished with reminder that the WGEA's world first-study establishing a strong causal relationship between increasing the share of board and leadership roles given to women and improved company performance. CLICK HERE for the full story.

WOB members can listen to our recent WOBChat with Libby Lyons on WOBShare here.
Find out more about WOBShare, our member only online forum.

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