Gender and Cultural Studies seminar: Women’s Work in Tumultuous Times – School of Humanities Gender and Cultural Studies seminar: Women’s Work in Tumultuous Times – School of Humanities

Gender and Cultural Studies seminar: Women’s Work in Tumultuous Times

Prof Marian Baird & Dr Frances Flanagan | The University of Sydney
Joint presentation

Women’s Work in Tumultuous Times: Conceptualising work value and equal remuneration in the era of Covid and climate change

Covid 19 has laid bare and deepened dynamics of gender inequality that have long been the focus of feminist struggle. The strongest public health policies have been revealed to be only as robust as the employment conditions enjoyed by the most marginal workers employed to do work that can never be ‘paused’ and where human bodies necessarily come together: namely, in the world of routine care for the elderly, disabled, sick and young. In these highly feminized sectors, work characteristics that have long been recognized by feminists as symptoms of the
systemic and historic undervaluation such as low wages, high levels of insecurity, inadequate leave entitlements and training have come together with dramatic and potentially lethal effect.

In such a context, it is timely to consider how the legal concept of ‘work value’- which ostensibly aims to align the remuneration of work with a notion of ‘value’ that is anchored beyond the market – might be reconceptualized to better realise both (gender) equality and public health imperatives. My paper explores this issue from two directions. Firstly, it outlines the possibilities and limitations of the current concept of ‘work value’ in Australian law and the affordances it might offer for improving the status and security of care work in the Covid context. Secondly, it attempts to open up discussion of what a reconfigured concept of work value might look like if it were embedded within a policy and industrial framework explicitly geared to protecting the biophysical safety of its population and ensuring that processes of social and ecological reproduction are secure.

Marian Baird AO: Marian Baird is Professor of Gender and Employment Relations, Head of the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies, and Co-Director of the Women and Work Research Group in the University of Sydney Business School. Marian was awarded an AO in 2016 for outstanding services to improving the quality of women’s working lives and for contributions to tertiary education. In 2018 and 2019 she was named in Apolitical’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Gender Equality list. She is one of Australia’s leading researchers in the fields of women, work and family. Marian is widely published, and her research was instrumental in the development of Australia’s paid parental leave scheme, introduced in 2010, and she was a Chief Investigator on the review panel of the scheme 2010-2014. She has contributed to a number of government advisory boards and reference groups relating to parental leave, gender equality and sexual harassment in the workplace. She is a member of international research networks on parental leave and empowering women and is currently a Chief Investigator on the Centre of Excellence on Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), where her focus is on mature workers, particularly with regard to women and the
provision of care.

Frances Flanagan is an early career researcher with an interdisciplinary background in work studies and history. She holds a University of Sydney
Fellowship based in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies. Her research concerns the crucial and changing role that work has played as a source of social cohesion, identity and belonging in the context of ongoing changes to employment relationships, technology and the environment. Between 2015 and 2018, Frances was the National Director of Research at United Voice (now known as the United Workers Union), one of Australia’s largest unions, comprising cleaners, disability and aged carers, early childhood educators and a range of other occupations. Frances has also been a researcher and lecturer at Birkbeck, a Marshall Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, and a Senior Scholar at Hertford College Oxford. Frances’ work has been published in leading industrial relations journals and history publications, including the Journal of Industrial Relations and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Her book, Remembering the Revolution was published by Oxford University Press and was short-listed for the Royal Historical Society Whitfield Prize for the best monograph on a subject of British or Irish history published within the United Kingdom or Republic of Ireland in 2016. In February 2019, she was invited to deliver the inaugural Iain McCalman lecture on the environment and culture, on the subject ‘Climate Change and the New Work Order’.


When and Where

2pm, Friday 28 August 2020
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The Department of Gender and Cultural Studies is part of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI).


Aug 28 2020


2:00 pm




Gender and Cultural Studies
+61 2 9351 2759

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