A quick read of the recent Gender Equality fact sheet produced by the Australian Human Rights Commission shows that:
- Women and girls make up over half (50.7%) of the Australian population.
- Although women comprise about 47% of all employees in Australia, they take home on average $251.20 less than men each week (in full-time adult ordinary earnings).
- The national gender pay gap is 15.3% and has been stuck between 15% and 19% for the past 20 years.
- Although female graduates outnumber males at record levels, on average, Australian women have to work an extra 56 days a year to earn the same pay as men for doing the same work.
- Australian women are over-represented in part-time work in low-paid industries and in insecure work.
- On average, women spend 64 per cent of their working week performing unpaid care work and they spend almost twice as many hours performing such work each week compared to men.
- Australian women retire with about half the amount of superannuation than men meaning that women are more likely to experience poverty in their retirement years and be more dependent on the Age Pension.
- 1 in 2 women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime.
- 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15.
- 1 in 5 women have experienced violence by a partner since the age of 15.
- Australian women continue to be under-represented in leadership roles in the private and public sectors. Only 5% of CEOs in the ASX200 are women, 24% of directors in the ASX200 are women and Australia ranks 48th in the world in terms of the representation of women in politics (down from 32nd in 2006).
- In 2017, Australia was ranked 35th on a global index measuring gender equality, dropping from a high point of 15th in 2006.
Plus it’s 2019 and millions of Australian women still don’t have the right to control their own bodies. Abortion remains a crime in NSW and for women in other parts of Australia, like Tasmania, access to abortion is so limited they need to travel interstate to Victoria to access abortion services. Even in the traditionally Catholic country of Ireland, abortion is no longer a crime.
These statistics reflect the lived realities of many Australian women. And they prove that irrespective of how our elected representatives see themselves, the current approach isn’t working.
There is an abundance of excellent work that has been done about significant issues where governmental policy affects women differently to men; or substantively affects only women. This includes the work done, and continuing to be done, by women journalists, writers, activists, bureaucrats and academics, and by women’s organisations such as the Women’s Electoral Lobby, the National Foundation for Australian Women, Fair Agenda, the six National Women’s Alliances and many more.
It is clear that public discussion about these issues is not a political priority for our elected representatives. It is rare for any of this work to be referenced in public debate. Worse, many of our (male) political representatives seem to be in complete public denial about the fact that many significant policies affect women and men in different ways.
A very recent example is then Treasurer Scott Morrison’s 2018 assertion to the effect that tax policy is “gender neutral” and there are no “pink and blue” tax forms. The reality is not so simple or straightforward: there is, for example, evidence that where the primary earner is male, tax policy does not significantly impact his workplace participation, but where the secondary income earner is female, tax policy is far more determinative in decisions women make around work. The differential impact of tax policy on women is a matter gaining attention internationally.
Yet much of this kind of analysis gets little public and mainstream attention. It is difficult for women to inform themselves of how the policies of the current government and the other parties and key independents affect their particular interests. Even when policy documents are released which specifically address women, they’re littered with sweeping statements and mainly speak of broad goals and targets. They rarely identify with any precision their implications for women’s lives.