The best way to move Australia forward on financial equality is by taking action but we need this to happen at the individual and organisational level.
There are various things that each of us can do to make an impact on equality, from the way we shop, who we do business with and what we regard as acceptable and not acceptable.
Among the key recommendations gathered for the Financy Women’s Index in collaboration with Economic Security 4 Women and Femeconomy that we feel would assist progress in each of the seven areas measured in the Financy Women’s Index are:
Closing the Superannuation Gender Gap
At the individual level, we must take a stand and ask the question of our employers: will you pay SG if I take parental leave? This is regardless of gender.
We also need to look at what payments could be made at a family level to help the primary carer’s superannuation keep growing, should they take extended periods out of the paid workforce.
More significantly to impact financial equality, legislative changes are needed to ensures all employers provide super guarantee contributions (SG) to staff while on parental leave.
We also need to consider as a nation introducing legislation that ensures anyone who has been granted early access to their superannuation under the federal government’s scheme, is entitled to both; an enhanced tax concession to make additional catch up contributions to their super, plus free financial coaching to plan their catchup.
Closing the Gender Gaps in Wages and Employment
Some women say they’ve never knowingly experienced a gender pay gap whereas other women can recall the exact moment they became aware of a gender pay gap within their workforce.
Being upfront about asking about the existence of a gender pay gap or calling out one if you hear of it in the workforce, are actually important actions in closing the gender gap.
At an organisational level, mandatory pay reporting for all businesses would help to ensure that men and women are paid the same in like-for-like roles.
Legislative changes may also include; wage increases skewed towards currently low paid sectors that have a high proportion of female workers.
Addressing and removing the workforce disincentive rate for parents and improving access to affordable and subsidized childcare as well as paid parental leave.
Legislation that ensures all employers who are able provide various flexible work arrangements.
Government support for widespread adoption of improved hiring practices that remove gender bias, conscious and unconscious such as the use of blind recruitment processes and ensuring gender balance on hiring panels.
Challenging Gender Dynamics in Education
We may have more women than men studying after high school to further that careers but the choices they are making are not necessarily translating to financial equality.
Compulsory national careers program are needed across secondary schools with the aim of breaking gender stereotypes, raising awareness around pay outcomes and future proofing careers by looking at the jobs and skills needed for tomorrow. This is something that needs to happen at a state and or national level.
We also need to improve the financial literacy of Australian women so they can make more informed choices. Financial literacy programs at a young age which include making personal finance compulsory in secondary school, particularly among senior students, would be hugely beneficial to the education of young generations and removing financial inequalities in society.
Closing the Gender Gap in Unpaid Work
Depending on your household structure, you may or may not have inequity when it comes to unpaid work. If there is an imbalance and it’s one that you do not think is fair or it’s limiting your ability to realise your potential, then this is an issue that needs to be called out and renegotiated.
It’s long been argued that we need to see a government funded “carer credit” in the form of superannuation payments, pension top ups and other government services for the savings to the Federal Budget these carers implicitly accrue from their unpaid care for dependent family members. We’d like to see this happen in some capacity.
A government funded media campaign that aims to smash gender stereotypes around unpaid work in the home and workforce would also be beneficial to closing the gender gap in unpaid work.
Improving Gender Diversity in Leadership
The lack of gender diversity in key leadership positions is a big contributor to financial inequality in Australia and the world. Yet it is something that individuals, business and government have within their capacities to change.
To help things at an individual level, we need to push to achieve our full potential and to celebrate those wins, especially the hard fought ones.
A government mandate to achieve a future target of 50/50 gender diversity in Australian political parties would also be hugely beneficial particularly for younger generations.
As part of that change, government support for a future target of 50/50 gender diversity of Australian company boards would also be complimentary. In addition to which should be government incentivised training to support businesses in fostering diversity at all levels of leadership.