However, the agency has started to detect a positive move away from labelling people as primary or secondary carers.
“It is a good thing because it is recognising men are parents and it is removing the burden on women to have to be the sole carer of children,” Ms Lyons said.
The agency’s annual gender equality scorecard to be released on Tuesday shows that three-quarters of employers on its database of 4841 business organisations have a gender equality strategy or policy in place, but less than a third (32.2 per cent) are monitoring their implementation.
“The lack of any real change in the data tells me that there is not a lot of action and target setting in workplaces,” Ms Lyons said. “I’m disappointed with the overall result. We have seen minimal change.
“It means that employers are not taking action.”
Ms Lyons said there was a strong business case for improving gender balance in the workplace. It encouraged a more engaged and loyal workforce which in turn helped save money through reduced staff churn.
“To say we have ‘done diversity and inclusion’ is a nonsense,” she said. “An employer wouldn’t speak that way about work health and safety or improving sales revenue.
“Only the smart employers have really taken this to heart and continue to treat it as a business issue.”
However, employers with a policy or strategy on family violence have jumped by more than 13 percentage points in a year, to 60.2 per cent. Ms Lyons said a public spotlight on domestic and family violence had helped focus employer attention on the issue.
“Employers are responding by putting policies and strategies in place and by recognising they need to provide paid domestic violence leave,” she said.
Ms Lyons said there were still not enough women in management roles and there was a need for more businesses to encourage more men into flexible work. The report also found that more than 50 per cent of employers in its database do not offer paid parental leave.
She recommended targets for men to engage in flexible work arrangements and encouraged smaller businesses to offer paid parental leave to achieve a longer-term benefit in terms of retention and loyalty.
Sydney father Andrew Hislop started six months of parental leave in October with his first child Elliot, who is 6 months old.
“It’s bloody tough – it’s the hardest job in the world,” he said. “But being home and taking care of him is not something you get being a dad on a weekend,” he said.
Mr Hislop took leave from his job as a national sales manager for a pharmaceutical company after his wife took six months off from her job as the chief economist for a government agency.
“There is unconscious bias towards women as being primary carer. We are more of a team in caring for Elliot,” he said.
The report showed a small increase in the representation of women in management, but the number of female CEOs has not changed, remaining at 17.1 percent for the second year in a row.
Jodie Rowlands, director of IT at cosmetics company Loreal said she has had rapid career progression since since started there three-and-a-half years ago. She previously worked in advertising and had to “take a back seat” and work part-time after having children. She now works full-time.
“It hasn’t been difficult getting ahead, people at Loreal are rewarded for doing well,” she said.
As a manager, Ms Rowlands said it was up to her now to “make sure no one feels they have to go backwards to go forwards”.
“If there is anyone who can multi task, it is a mother with children,” she said.
Effie Gorringe, director of operations at Loreal in Melbourne, said the company had an even balance of male and female employees. She has been with the company for five years after working in the food industry for 21 years.
“What I have found in Loreal is there is a larger percentage of women in the organisation and women in leadership roles at every level,” she said.
Anna Patty is Workplace Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald. She is a former Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter.