Friday, February 27, 2015

International Women’s Day 2015 - #Makeithappen

On March 8th we celebrate International Women's Day. A day that is now set aside globally to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women, past and present.

This day is about our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, friends and girlfriends.

20 years ago women who celebrated this day perhaps had a very different vision or hope in mind as to where we would be on this issue of equality.

I am the same. My desire is to ensure that the legacy I leave behind my daughter and son is radically different to where we are today.
As we near closer to the 8th of March, IWD is indeed a day that should be celebrated. Our gains have been many however there is still a long way to go.
I believe it is time for us in Australia to consider how we overcome some of the following issues:

·       The gender pay gap in Australia is 18.2%, the highest it has ever been. In WA however-the boom state- with the highest cost of living, the gap sits at 26.4%.
One of the reasons for the pay gap is that women are more likely to work in industries that pay less such as healthcare, education, human resources, administration, food services, retail and hotels. Conversely men dominate industries such as mining, finance and engineering which have traditionally been better paid.
There are also more women in part time work, they job share or are taking a career breaks.
Let’s not forget those women who choose to stay at home and are responsible for “unpaid” work.
And there is of course the ongoing issue of many working women carrying majority of the household burden.
Although there are many companies who have lead the way on this issue, including representation of women at leadership levels and on boards, we still have a long way to go.
  • One of the consequences of the pay gap is that women are retiring on 1/3 less superannuation than their male counterparts (Human Rights Commission).  A recent study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows women over 55 are increasingly seeking homelessness assistance.
A woman born after 1966 aged 45-49 has an average superannuation of $60,618 vs $102,358 for a male. 
40% of women who retire claim their main source of income as the government pension and they make up 55.7% of the age pension recipients (ABS).  

Regardless of gender, neither amount is enough to retire with now that we live longer.
  • Given the rate of divorce in Australia there are more women who head up single parent families. Many of these women’s lack of earning capacity has an impact on areas such as housing affordability. They are being priced out of the property market regardless of whether they are buying or renting.
Banks see them as high risk and they often don’t get the level of lending they require and sadly many will often be screened out as appropriate tenants in favour of higher paying applicants.
The 2011 census indicates that there are 600,828 single women over the age of 45 on medium to low incomes who do not own their own homes. There are 373,794 men in the same situation. As these women retire they will struggle to pay rent as the cost of living and utilities continues to rise.
  • Over the last 10 years, every single market in Australia has seen significant price increases impacting the lowest income earners, in particular women. This increases the risk of homelessness and housing stress. Affordable and accessible housing is critical and we need to find a way to supply affordable homes without reverting to the fringes of Melbourne, away from jobs and adequate transport.
Public housing is not always the answer, as this is also under stress with over 200,000 on waiting lists across the country.
·       Domestic violence is the main cause of homelessness for women and children in Australia (White Ribbon). In 2015, two women a week have been killed, up 100% from previous years.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2013 32% of all clients receiving assistance from homelessness agencies were escaping domestic and family violence. 63% were women and 19% were children under the age of 10.
Often women will make the choice to stay in unsafe relationships as leaving will result in potential homelessness.
A national survey of 409 leading Australian business (Telstra Business Awards Alumni) women has found stopping domestic violence against women is the top priority for women in Australia in 2015. (Survey conducted by Telstra)
So by 2020 we potentially will see an:
·       Increase in the dwelling gap of affordable housing (supply and demand vs income)

·       Increase in homelessness in which older women and women with children will be over-represented

·       Increased stress on public housing

Equality is not just about the pay gap, however the issue of pay gap has reverberating consequences.

I am a woman born in 1966 and fortunately, retirement for me does not look like living of a government pension. However I am a single parent and I constantly am seeking ways to secure long term financial security that my male counterparts don’t truly seem to understand. Housing affordability is an issue when I have commitments to my children’s education and wellbeing.
I am however in no way marginalised and I have a strong voice and opinions with skill sets that I can carry across industries.
The theme for IWD 2015 is “make it happen”.  

·       What will it take for leaders around the globe to unite to “make it happen”?

·       What will it take for CEO’s around the globe to unite to “make it happen”?

·       What will it take for leadership teams around the globe to unite to “make it happen”?

Because if we don’t unite now than when will we? And if we not equal then what are we?

The ongoing impact on women, in particular, demands that this occurs or we will continue to see women and their children marginalised. 

How will I “make it happen”? 

I believe that to truly change this paradigm, women need to engage men and invite them to join us.

We need to work with men who empathise with the issue and are prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with us and influence others. We need to find male sponsors in our work places.

I will #makeithappen by continuing this conversation, on line, off line, with family, with friends, work colleagues both male and female.

Revolutions start as a ripple, start your ripple today and affect change that will have an impact.

Let’s not leave this issue of inequality as unfinished business in our lifetime.