Why do we need gender equality and how does Australia perform?
Gender equality is about women and men accessing the same human rights and opportunities. The United Nations (UN) has a goal of a life of dignity for all. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal number 5 is Gender Equality. However, did you know that no country in the world has achieved gender equality? At current rates of progress we are forecast to achieve it in 2186.
If you consider Australia’s historical performance towards gender equality, we have made decent strides towards equality. But, more recently our progress has been relatively slow, and of concern, has actually steadily reversed over the past decade. Slipping from a high point of 15th in 2006, Australia’s ranking on the global index measuring gender equality was 24th in 2013, 36th in 2015 and 46th place in 2016.
Australian Key Statistics on Gender Equality
- Women comprise 50.2% of the Australian population and around 46% of the workforce
- There were only 25% women on ASX200 boards of directors in December 2016, up from 8.3% in 2010
- Our current gender pay gap is 16% (28% for Managers), despite that gender pay equity was legislated to be ‘phased in’ by 1972. It has hovered between 15-19% for the last two decades
- In September 2015, there were fewer big Australian companies run by women than by men named Peter
- Women retire with 52% less superannuation than men
- Around 58% of Australia’s university graduates are women but the workforce participation rate for women is only 59.1%, compared to 70.2% for men
- One in three Australian women aged 15 years and over has experienced physical violence and nearly one in five has experienced sexual assault
The Business Case for Gender Equality
Decades of research highlight the benefits to society, community and business of achieving gender equality. According to Peterson Institute of International Economics research, businesses are on average 15% more profitable once they have achieved a minimum of 30% of women in executive leadership. The Grattan Institute found that increasing female workforce participation by 6% has the potential to add $25 billion each year to the Australian economy. The business case for gender equality is strong.
How can we achieve gender equality?
We should all support gender equality, because it helps build a better Australia. Gender equality enhances the well-being of women and men at home and at work. Provision of flexible working options for men and women by employers is key to people being able to balance and share caring responsibilities, for children or elders. Other recommended practices for employers include annual gender pay gap audits, setting gender diversity targets and reporting for leadership roles. As well as formalised sponsorship and mentoring programs for women.
At a personal level, we need awareness of gender equality facts. And, how unconscious bias and deeply ingrained societal gender stereotypes impacts our thinking is also critical to changing our behaviour. Consider joining a women’s professional networking forum. These organisations provide excellent platforms for women’s professional development, and to lift up and support each other’s aspirations.
Everyone should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential, regardless of gender .
How can I find out more?
Fortunately there are many people in Australia who are working hard to create gender equality. Some organisations to be aware of who advocate for and report on the progress of gender equality in Australia include:
- United Nations Women
- Workplace Gender Equality Agency
- Australian Human Rights Commission
- Australian Institute of Company Directors, who have a target of 30% females on ASX200 Boards by 2018
- Chief Executive Women
- Women on Boards
- Diversity Council of Australia
- Male Champions of Change
- Diverse City Careers
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