Graduate Consultant, Courtney, shares her key insights from the first session at last week’s Women in Super event. Here is her overview of the presentation by Professor Elizabeth Hill (Department of Political Economy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney) and Professor Rae Cooper (The Women, Work and Leadership Research Group, The University of Sydney Business School). Thank you to Women in Super for organising this event and for continuing to represent the voice of women in superannuation.
While all Australian’s social lives, education, exercise, and work routines have been turned upside down due to COVID-19, there is a facet that has been hit the hardest. Not surprisingly, it is Australian women. Exacerbated by excessive lockdowns, home schooling, and everything else that comes with managing health, children, and well-being, it has been described as “a perfect storm” for Australian women. Whist all people have been impacted by COVID-19 in some way, it is important to note that the pandemic has exacerbated the pressing and concerning problem of gender inequality, where most women are proven to be ‘worse off’.
The main reasons why females, in particular, are struggling can be summarised as follows:
- Structure of the Australian Economy: Australia has an 80% service sector economy which is highly feminised in specific industries. The three most female dominate careers are in education, health, and social service – which happen to contain the most important roles in a global pandemic!
- Job growth: Women’s job prosperity grew 3% in 2019, compared to 1.6% for males pre-COVID-19. This means that organisations are hiring women more than men (women are valuable)!
- Women’s participation in the labour market: Participation in the labor workforce is now at 60% for females. This is the highest in history.
- Home responsibilities: Underpaid, undervalued and overworked frontline female workforces are feeling the brunt of the pandemic and adding to the increased workload has been the pressure from home-schooling and child-care which has also grown for women.
To top this off, it has been suggested that in 2020-2021:
- 1 in 10 women experienced domestic violence; and
- 1 in 3 experienced abusive behavior.
So, what has the Government done?
The relief packages such as Job keeper, Job Seeker and Disaster payments have been deemed as successful, however most have ended. Additionally, it is important to note that more applications for these payments were from males not females when, surprisingly, more females lost their jobs.
The following ideas were suggested to tighten the gender gap:
A Gender Lens Response Recovery
- look at helping women, not industries;
- unlock women’s human capital;
- support a low carbon economy; and
- involve women in these decisions.
Good jobs and decent work
- robust floor rights that include a living wage;
- voice at work; and
- working time security.
Fair Share Lucrative jobs
- reduce gendered labour market segregations.
Investment in strong care infrastructure and workforce
- close the gender pay gap.
As these are only a few suggestions that can help mitigate this striking problem, much more needs to be done. At present, Australian females are exhausted and discouraged with reduced savings and superannuation. The future may look bleak however it is never too late to change!
From a personal perspective, this presentation gave me more depth of understanding and exaggerated the importance of saving early in my career, not only to better prepare for the possibility of motherhood but to have the stability to overcome the struggles that inevitably come with life. Knowing where my money is going, understanding my rights regarding employment and investing in super, property, shares etc. might be small tasks now but they produce huge rewards later. With financial security, women (like myself) are less likely to feel ‘stuck’ in unjust jobs and/or relationships. In saying that, it has also highlighted the importance of helping women who are struggling. Volunteering for a charity that supports females, is one way I can help all women, regardless of their age, background or circumstances, to feel more empowered and in control.
Summary provided by Courtney Andrews, Graduate Consultant
[Information provided is from the session presentation only. Refer to the WIS website for further information in regards to this topic.]