International Women’s Day: Gender equality more than 100 years away

- March 8, 2021 2 MIN READ

It will take more than a century for women to achieve equality according to the findings from the latest Financy Women’s Index. Despite Australian women making some progress towards financial equality, the impact of COVID-19 has severely hampered efforts, with women experiencing a slower employment recovery than men.

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman founder of Financy, says at the current rate of progress, economic equality is a long way off. Speaking at a CEDA event this morning Hartge- Hazelman reflected on the impact of COVID on financial equality.

COVID impacts women’s march towards equality

“When we look at financial progress – the pink and blue recessions – we know women’s financial progress has collapsed. That recovery among women was slower for women than men.

“The Index shows that we are unlikely to see equality in Australia until the year 2122,” Hartge-Hazelman said.

“Without significant change, it’s likely that women will continue to participate in paid work at a reduced capacity to men and this will affect women’s financial security and progress.”

The Financy Women’s Index fell by 2.3 points (-3 per cent) to 74 points in the December quarter, reflecting the worst-performing quarter since March 2013. This fall in progress will push out the time frame for achieving equality to 101 years

Education impact on wages

Speaking at the CEDA update, Hartge-Hazelman reflected that the Index showed an increasing need for an education piece on career choice and wages. The Index found that women are more likely than men to select educational pathways that are linked to lower-paid industries which can have a profound impact on career earnings and gender pay gaps.

“Draw the dots between what you’re studying – you earn what you learn,” she commented.

“The Index points to a need to reconsider the value of occupations that are traditionally female-dominated such as health, aged and child care,” notes Simone Cheung, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics.

Speaking on the widening of the gender gap in unpaid work, Roger Wilkins, co-author of the HILDA report, said it “seems likely” COVID would have increased the unpaid work disparity in 2020.

“The increase in child care provided at home brought about by closure of child care centres and learning from home is likely to have been disproportionately borne by women,” says Wilkins.

Not all bad news

Howecer it’s not all bad news, women’s participation at the board level has increased. The appointment of women to ASX200 board positions, rose by six percentage points to 32.6 per cent and the best improvement in the gender pay gap (13.4 per cent) since June 2018, helped drive the Index higher and cushion the December quarter employment growth shortfall.

The Women’s Index also shows it’s expected to take 21 years to achieve equality in the national gender pay gap, 33 years in employment, 18 years in underemployment, 7 years for women on boards and 38 years to close the gender gap in superannuation savings.

“To speed up progress, we need cultural change to recognise the benefits of a more gender-diverse workplace and greater female participation in it at all levels,” says Dr Shane Oliver, Chief Economist AMP Capital.

“This starts in the nation’s schools and runs all the way to boardrooms and the nation’s parliaments. The pandemic has shown that the technology – to enable greater workplace diversity through workplace flexibility – is there to help make this happen,” Oliver, concluded.

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