As a ten year girl, gender equality was foreign to me but if I actually reflect on my childhood it was about that age that I remember being told to stop throwing a ball like a girl.
Admittedly my pass of a Softball was more of a flop than a dazzling angling of the elbow and flick of the wrist.
My brother had a style down pat that allowed a ball to travel further and faster, so I copied him and developed a competitive edge.
I hear similar stories from many women, which at times have seen them adapt to essentially be more like a man in a man’s game, a man’s workforce, and a man’s world.
While this experience is slowly changing as gender struggles are highlighted and differences often celebrated, the fact remains that the Australian workforce is still influenced by a historically male dominated culture, particularly at the leadership level.
Some large corporations are however more progressive and are adopting non-gendered flexible work and parental leave policies, others have recognised that diversity of leadership at the top breeds diversity at the bottom, and even some financial institutions are boldly investing in support of gender equality on the basis that it can produce better returns for investors.
Despite this, many women are still waiting for their employers to catch up. They may even be asking for change but until it happens they adhere to gender stereotypes that again require them be more like the traditional man at work, and woman at home.
What’s needed is an Australian workforce that truly supports both genders without the conscious or unconscious penalty for difference.
It’s commonly cited that women tend to be at a financial disadvantage to men because of career breaks or because they choose to do more in unpaid work. But as the Financy Women’s Index for the September quarter of 2019 shows, career breaks and a significant imbalance in unpaid work, are not the only reason for economic inequality in Australia.
Financial disadvantage starts early. We see it in 15-year-old girls with gender gaps in unpaid and paid work. We see it in graduate salaries, only to watch the gender gap widen the longer a woman stays in the workforce. We also see it in the retirement phase.
While an evolution of the workforce is underway, bigger ideas are needed to fast track economic equality in the school system, the workforce, society and at home.
So as part of the 10th anniversary of the Financy Women’s Index (FWX), I will leave you with ten big ideas that we believe would make a transformational impact in the quest for financial equality in Australia.
These ideas are the result of brainstorming efforts by the FWX Advisory panel and the government funded organisation, economic Security4Women.
- Compulsory financial education for all high school students, particularly in senior years. This should include focus on money management skills as well as awareness the impact of career choices and career breaks on finances, debt, asset ownership, credit cards and superannuation.
- Government supported school and sports programs that abolish or “call out” negative gender stereotypes and discrimination in the home, sports, academia, culture and career pursuits.
- Media and school campaigns that promote gender equality in unpaid caring and housework such as “doing your fair share”, “it’s all not women’s work,” and “share the load on parenting.”
- Targets for all ASX company boards on gender equality and female representation.
- Government support for media campaigns that recognises the signs of financial and elderly financial abuse as a form of domestic violence.
- Leverage the use of technologies by financial institutions, like superannuation funds to encourage women to change behaviours such as top up their superannuation and to better recognise financial and elderly abuse.
- Government led programs that help support and celebrate men in a gender equality society.
- Compulsory employer superannuation on paid parental leave with government subsidy relief for small businesses.
- Compulsory all company reporting of like-for-like gender pay gaps particularly for tertiary graduates up to three years into their career.
- Government program to highlight the benefits to employers in offering wider non-gendered flexible working arrangements, (telecommuting, split hours, flex etc), for parents on career breaks, and for parents looking to return to work after such breaks.