Gendered Disrespect and Inequality in Retail Work: A Summary of Findings

Rae Cooper, Meraiah Foley, Laura Good, Briony Lipton, Serrin Rutledge-Prior, Amy Tapsell, Ariadne Vromen

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


    Retail is Australia’s second largest employing industry (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2022), with approximately 10% of the Australian labour force working in the sector (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2022a). The retail industry is characterised by a young, diverse workforce (Australian Human Rights Commission., 2019; Baird et al., 2018), most of which is employed on part-time or casual contracts (Australian Human Rights Commission., 2019). Fifty-seven percent (57%) of retail workers are women (Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), 2021), making retail the third most feminised industry in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2020). Women are also fundamental to the success and profitability of businesses in the industry, as they make up approximately 75% of consumer spending decisions (Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), 2021) (see Figure 1). Yet, within the retail sector, there is clear evidence of gendered disrespect and inequality. Women are underrepresented in senior leadership roles within retail, holding only 27% of board positions and 17% of chief executive officer roles (Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), 2021). Women working in retail – who are predominately young, low paid, and insecurely employed (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2020; Australian Human Rights Commission., 2019) – experience disproportionate rates of incivility, abusive behaviour, harassment and violence (Australian Human Rights Commission., 2019; Korczynski & Evans, 2013; Tindell & Padavic, 2022). This report is the second of two reports that interrogate the ways in which women and men working in Australia’s retail industry understand and experience the changing nature of work in retail, and their hopes and fears for the future of the industry. In the first report, Technology and skills in the future of retail work: Summary of findings, we investigated worker experiences and perceptions of intersecting technological transformations occurring in the Australian retail industry and the changing skills sets required for the future of retail work. In this report, we examine retail workers’ experiences and perceptions of gendered disrespect and inequality. The findings summarised here are based on data collected in interviews with 30 senior industry leaders and stakeholders, including representatives from industry associations and unions, senior managers of major retail employers, retail consultants and other industry experts. It also draws upon the findings of a survey (n = 1,160) of Australian retail, fast food, and warehouse workers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Commissioning bodyGender Equality in Working Life (GEWL) Research Initiative
    Publication statusPublished - 2023

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