A long way from equity and equality: Financy Women’s Index reports

- March 6, 2024 3 MIN READ


The latest findings from the Financy Women’s Index (FWX) reveal it’s a case of one step forward, two steps back in the journey towards economic equality for Australian women.

Despite advancements in certain areas, the overall FWX score fell by 1 point to 75.5 out of 100 in 2023, signifying progress hadn’t just stalled; it has regressed.

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, founder of Financy, expressed dismay over the backsliding, saying, “In 2024, it is inexcusable that progress towards women’s gender equality should be heading backwards on a number of fronts.”

The challenge of underemployment

Hartge-Hazelman suggests it is time to take action. She highlights the significance of International Women’s Day (IWD) as an opportunity for corporations and governments to take bold steps towards offering more pathways to meaningful, well-paid careers for women.

Dr. Shane Oliver, Chief Economist at AMP, and a contributor to the report, agreed, emphasising the need for a multifaceted approach to address financial inequality.

“To properly address financial inequality requires removing conscious and unconscious gender bias, facilitating women’s full participation in the workforce after having children, and promoting shared responsibility for unpaid family work,” Dr. Oliver states.

Unpaid work gap widens for women

While men might be doing more housework, the December quarter of 2023 saw the unpaid work gap widen. According to the report there was a 2-point drop from the previous quarter, driven in part by the worsening gender gaps in underemployment.

Year on year, the FWX Unpaid Work sub-index worsened to 67.7 points in Dec 2023 from 69.3 points in Dec 2022, as men spent disproportionately fewer hours than women doing unpaid housework and childcare.

The FWX findings suggest the widening gap in domestic responsibilities indicates a persistent imbalance in gender roles within Australian households. Whilst both women and men spent two per cent fewer hours in unpaid housework and childcare, progress wasn’t realised, because women continued to do the lion’s share of the work.

Gender pay gap narrows, but challenges remain

The gender pay gap may be closing (there was a record-low gender pay gap of 12 per cent in the December quarter of 2023), but other indicators paint a less optimistic picture.

The underemployment rate among women hit a two-year high, in December, exacerbating existing challenges in female-dominated industries such as Accommodation and Food Services and Rental, Hiring, and Real Estate Services.

Despite regulatory changes and social events in 2023 aimed at promoting gender equality, such as the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) gender pay gap transparency campaign and high-profile events like the FIFA World Cup and more recently, Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, women continue to face barriers to realising their full economic potential.

“The recent public release of company pay gap data in Australia shines a spotlight on the ongoing issue of women in 2024 being unable to reach their full potential and the long-term implications of this, ranging from inadequate superannuation savings at an individual level to the limitations placed on Australia’s economic capacity and growth,” Hartge-Hazelman said.

The setbacks from financial inequality

Natalie Previtera, CEO of NGS Super, highlighted the stark reality revealed by WGEA data: men still earn 22 per cent more than women in Australia. “In real terms, it means that for every $100 a man makes, a woman only makes $78,” she states.

Previtera also emphasises that women are at the coalface of the cost of living pressures, suggesting that women bear the brunt of Australia’s rising rents, with single women being the largest group of rent assistance recipients. Additionally, Previtera says women are more at risk of housing insecurity, especially as they approach retirement, facing a significant gap in superannuation savings compared to men.

“Now is the perfect time to continue the conversation around the gender pay gap and its broader impact on women’s lives,” Previtera explains. “Employers also have a role to play beyond addressing parity.”

To meet this challenge, Previtera called for policy changes that support primary carers, including childcare subsidies and flexible work arrangements to help lessen the gap.

With International Women’s Day just around the corner, the findings from the Financy Women’s Index suggest there is still much to be done to achieve economic equality for Australian women.

While some progress has been made, the FWX suggests there is a need to tackle conscious and unconscious biases, if Australia is to close the gap and truly adhere to the 2024 UN IWD theme of ‘Count Her In’.

You can read the Financy Women’s Index report in full here

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