Improving economic gender equality is a process that, in many ways has come so far – and yet hasn’t moved far or fast enough.
History shows us that, to achieve financial equality for Australian women, we need to push forward with action to address systemic bias and shift accepted norms. That’s why it’s important to look at how far we’ve come so that we can address what further change – small and large – is required.
Eighty years ago, in 1940s Australia, women kept essential industries going during WWII. These ‘victory jobs’ paid women two thirds or less of what men made. This is a clear example of the lower value placed on women’s contribution in the workforce. This gender pay gap now stands at 13.3%, and this quarter’s Financy Women’s Index (FWX) shows pay equality is still 24 years away.
In the 1960s, the Commonwealth Marriage Bar meant women in the public service – and many other industries – had to resign when they married. This restriction meant opportunities for promotion were limited for married women, as only permanent staff could be in supervisory roles.
While we’ve made some big strides on the journey towards financial equity for women, there is a long way to go. Super on paid parental leave, access to affordable childcare, more flexible working arrangements for all genders, a greater emphasis on workplace cultures that supports both parents taking on caring responsibilities as well as greater transparency in wages are some of the barriers we still need to crack.
Today, many women continue to experience financial discrimination. The last two censuses showed the impact of this, with older women aged 55+ now the fastest-growing group of homeless people in Australia. Women are also more likely to be living in poverty.
Fewer than half (42%) of Australian women work full-time, compared to 67% of men. This gap is cited as one of the reasons why women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions.
Women also continue to be more likely to work in industries with lower pay and are overrepresented in part-time and casual work. This quarter’s FWX shows that gender underemployment equality is still 20 years away.
As the increasing cost of living bites, the focus on preparing for the future can be overlooked. There may be no simple way to address this, but improving financial literacy by building it into our education and employment experiences provides an opportunity for women to develop financial skills and gain confidence through different life stages.
Most superannuation funds, along with other financial institutions, have a range of calculators, quizzes, webinars and resources that can help take the mystery out of questions to do with money, savings and super. There is always the option to talk to an expert as well, such as a super specialist. Having a chat about your goals can go a long way in helping you feel in the know about your current financial situation and where you would like to get to.
I would encourage all women to take the time to learn more about finance.
The old saying, ‘knowledge is power’, is a popular one for a reason. The more you know, the easier it will be to build financial security and create independence at every stage of your life.
Efforts across government, industry and community to achieve financial equality for women are not only important for economic growth and social cohesion – it is also a matter of fairness that has the power to shape the lives of future generations and how they work, live and socialise.
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