The Financy Women’s Index shows more Australian women are taking advantage of opportunities to progress in the economy by engaging in the workforce in record numbers and making educational decisions that align with higher paying careers.
The Financy Women’s Index powered by Data Digger improved 0.8 percentage points to 111.7 points in the three months to December 31, compared to a revised 0.2 percentage point gain in the September quarter.
But the annual pace of female economic progress slowed as the country’s biggest listed companies did not improve on the number of women on boards.
“What Financy is mapping with the Women’s Index, is a fundament change that’s happening in society with the advancement of women, and whilst it is slow we should be excited that it is happening and is happening across a variety of indicators,” says Deloitte Access Economics Partner Nicki Hutley.
“The disappointment is that having met a key 30 per cent target set by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) the top end of corporate Australia doesn’t seem to be pushing much further.”
“Most companies do have a big diversity program, and that sort of thing is just going to take time,” says Hutley.
The Financy Women’s Index rose 2 percentage points in the 12 months to the December quarter 2017, compared to a 5 percentage point rise in the year to December 2016, and a 3 percentage points improvement in the year to December 2015.
The number of women represented on the boards of the top 20 companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) remains unchanged at 30.9 per cent, which has been relatively the same for the past two years.
“We should applaud companies that have a good representation of women on their boards but we should also continue to encourage more women to put themselves forward for such opportunities,” says OneVue chief executive officer Connie McKeage.
Despite this, Australian women still have reason to celebrate economic progress this International Women’s Day week, even if it’s not happening as fast as they may like.
“Its great to see the Financy Women’s Index showing that women are continuing to make further economic progress, helped lately by record female workforce participation,” says AMP Capital chief economist Dr Shane Oliver.
“Increasing female participation is good for the economy at a time when the population is aging and male participation is trending down. But there is still a long to go in areas like the pay gap and board representation.
“Rising levels of female enrolment in tertiary education relative to men is a very positive sign though that women’s progress relative to men will continue,” he said.
The December quarter result was largely driven by a record number of women in the paid workforce, and a slight narrowing of the gender gaps in wages and superannuation savings.
Superannuation balances of women are now at fresh highs, but continue to lag men by an average of 27 per cent in retirement savings.
The gender pay gap fell marginally to 15.27 per cent in the December quarter with the narrowing trend suggesting it could yet to fall below the 15.2 per cent record previously set in 2004.
Women are enrolling at a faster pace in tertiary studies than men, and particularly so when it comes to courses that align with higher paying careers such as information technology (IT) and engineering.
For the first time since its launch, on International Women’s Day 2017, the Financy Women’s Index for the December quarter shows a strong correlation and growing trend between women choosing educational courses linked to higher paying industries.
This in turn appears to be helping to narrow the wage disparity in higher paying and mostly male dominated sectors of the economy.
Furthermore improving employment outcomes are being borne out in a narrowing of the superannuation savings gender gap.
“On the eve of International Women’s Day, the Financy Women’s Index highlights the progress of Australian women in economic terms and the path that still needs to be travelled,” says Ms Mckeage.
“We are battling economic gender inequality and our policy makers and politicians need to reconsider how best to promote a balanced participation in the workforce. Only then, will we be in a position to drive a sustainable economic future for Australia.”