Women in the workplace

Women in the workplace: A timeline

Today, it seems incomprehensible that women could be paid less than men or below the minimum wage in Australia. The idea women would give up work to marry is absurd. That this was once the case illustrates the progress that has been made in women’s employment in Australia.

While we still have a lot more progress to make, we have certainly come a long way.

Over history, there have been several milestones in women’s employment in Australia.

The Victorian Women’s Trust, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and National Museum of Australia reveal some key moments.

Key Moments Timeline


Australia’s first female trade union the Tailoresses’ Association Of Melbourne was established.


Women were permitted to work as teachers after they married.


Women in the public service were no longer required to give up their jobs when they married. Married women were also entitled to superannuation and no longer forced to conceal their marital status.


In 1972, the Commonwealth Conciliation & Arbitration Commission ruled that men and women working the same job provided similar value and therefore should be paid the same rate. A million female workers received the right to extra pay.  As a result, women’s wages rose about 30%.


The Maternity Leave (commonwealth employees) act was introduced. Under the act, women were entitled to12 weeks paid maternity leave. They also had the option to take forty weeks unpaid maternity leave.


The Commonwealth Conciliation & Arbitration Commission ruled that the minimum wage applied to women as well as men.


The Equal Opportunities Act came into effect in Victoria. Under this legislation, discrimination in employment based on marital status was outlawed.


For the first time, women employed for more than twelve months could receive fifty-two weeks of unpaid maternity leave.


The Equal Employment Opportunity For Women act was passed. It required employers to provide equal opportunities for women in the workplace.


In a win for women in leadership roles, Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female Prime Minister. 


Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme was introduced.

Under the scheme, parents can receive pay for eighteen weeks while taking time off to look after their children.


The Workplace Gender Equality Act came into effect. Under the act, employers are required to lodge public reports containing information about various gender equality indicators. As a result of this legislation, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency was formed. 


For the first time, a women’s football team achieved pay equity when it was announced the Matildas would be paid equally to the Socceroos.


In 2023, the Federal Government passed the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (closing the gender pay gap) bill.  This bill requires the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to publish the gender pay gap data of companies with more then a hundred employees.

Women in the workplace

There is still much progress to be made, but women’s rights at work in Australia have come a long way. We should look back and be proud of the women who fought to give women the rights at work they deserve. 

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