It’s International Women’s Day…
A time to celebrate women around the world.
A time to cheer about our many achievements.
And a time to reflect on how far we still have to go to attain gender equality.
The World Economic Forum predicts that at current rates of change, we won’t achieve gender equality until 2186. Yes, you read that right, 2186.
Last year I was confronted to learn the facts of how far Australia has to go in attaining equality. CEDA Women in Leadership lunch, I was both enraptured and horrified by the talk given by the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. I wrote my thoughts on what I learnt on Linkedin at the time, and I think it’s worth sharing them with you again now.
Inequality is real in Australia
On the same day late last year that the WGEA released updated statistics and figures on the gender pay gap, Kate Jenkins shared the astonishing reality of gender inequality in Australia. Here are some of the “highlights”:
· 1 in 3 women have experienced physical violence against them in the last 5 years
· 1 in 4 women have experienced sexual harassment in the same period
· On retirement women will have 46.6% less superannuation on average than men – yes, that’s almost HALF the amount of men
· Women who have worked full time (and not taken time out for children) will earn $700,000 LESS on average than men in their lifetime (so let’s not use the “women having kids” argument any more)
· According to Plan International and Not On Our Watch, 14% of girls aged 15-19 expressed the view that they do not feel they have the same opportunities as boys.
· 1 in 2 mothers experience discrimination at work (and 1 in 4 men will experience it if they take parental leave)
· Women are 2.5 times more likely to end their life in poverty, and are at greater risk of homelessness
· There are now more men with the names Peter AND Andrew on Boards of the ASX 200 than there are women (yes, really)
· And this – my personal favourite – Kate said that almost 1 in 2 men actually don’t believe that sexual inequality is real – in her words, there is an attitude that the whole thing is just “political correctness gone mad”…
What is Australia doing about it?
Kate Jenkins is carrying on the real progress made by her predecessor, Elizabeth Broderick. Kate spoke of the systemic and attitudinal basis of gender inequality and that to create real change, we need to approach it from both of those angles. We can do that by identifying high impact places where systemic and attitudinal change can be effected – think of the places where we live, work, play and learn.
Hence Kate’s key focus is currently on 3 areas: Sport; Workplaces and Education.
Coming into the role in April 2016, Kate recognises the three immediate priorities which are:
1. Preventing violence against women and their children
2. Addressing women’s economic security
3. Advocating for greater diversity in decision making roles across our community.
What can YOU do about it?
Every person has a role to play in helping the cause for gender equality. Even if you don’t want to take a public role in effecting change, there are actions you can take every single day to make a difference, be #StrongerTogether and #BeBoldForChange.
1. Don’t just accept what you hear; what you are told – question it, then question it again.
2. Confront your own biases: pay attention to the phrases you use to describe other women, and yourself – challenge yourself to be better and do better.
3. Confront the biases of others: don’t be silent, speak up when you see injustice.
4. Finally – this. Don’t give up. Don’t EVER give up. Even when you feel you are banging your head against a brick wall. It’s worth it. We are worth it. YOU are worth it.
PS At SmartWomen Connect, a group I founded for women working in and with Corporate and Professional Services in 2016, we believe we are #strongertogether. If you want to find out more about this growing Clan of professional women and you are based in Sydney, click here to go to our website.