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A woman’s place is in the home

As a woman living in Australia in the 21st century, I’m aware I have a lot to be thankful for. When my 90 year old nanna spoke eloquently at my cousin’s wedding recently about her marriage in 1950, I was reminded of just how much things have changed in the last 70 years.

She had a happy marriage, and speaks extremely fondly about those days, but she was not afforded many of the privileges we take for granted today.

She stopped working, because that’s what you did when you got married in the 50s. She raised six kids, and took care of all the cooking, cleaning and washing (the thought of that many cloth nappies with no washing machine gives me heart palpitations), because ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ was a phrase that was accepted, rather than baulked at.

Sadly widowed many years ago, she still lives independently in a unit in Adelaide. Nanna emails me regularly from her tablet, and her 90th birthday present from her children, now adults with their own grandchildren, was the latest iphone. The change she’s witnessed in her lifetime is extraordinary.

Friday is International Women’s Day. It’s a time to celebrate what we’ve achieved, but it’s also a time to push ourselves to do better. To continue to raise the bar and take action for gender equality.

A new report from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) shines a light on how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.

Growth of female CEOs has been glacial, and based on current growth patterns, women will have to wait another 80 years until 2100 before achieving equal representation in CEO roles. - BCEC Gender Equity Insights Report 2019

The research found women now make up almost 50% of the Australian workforce and account for some 40% of all full-time jobs. However, at every management tier the salaries available to men are higher than those paid to women, with women typically receiving more than their fair share of the lower paid positions and less than their share of the higher level, higher paid jobs.

Interestingly, the Mining industry has one of the lowest glass ceilings, ranking 17th out of the 19 industries analysed on an assessment of total salary gender pay gaps at manager level.

Mining has a pay gap in total salaries for those on the highest pay (90th percentile) of just 6.9%, compared to 35.6% for Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services.

Yet while there may be women breaking down the glass ceiling in the resources sector, separate research from the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) released this week found more than half of the women surveyed in the ‘Professional Employment and Remuneration Survey' do not perceive the industry as diverse, while two in five do not think it’s inclusive.

Females that participated in the study of more than 600 people identified three key areas of focus to drive improvements in this area: equal employment opportunities, flexible workplaces, and an increase in industry leadership.

Men need flexibility, too

Flexible workplaces are critical to encouraging more women to remain in the workforce, and making higher level jobs more accessible to women. But it’s not just women that need the flexibility.

In my household, we’re a 50-50 family. Parenting responsibilities are shared equally, as is the management of the house – although my husband would argue he does more of the cooking.

To make this work, we rely on flexibility not just for me – which I’ve been fortunate to have for many years now – but also for him, which he has also been afforded through his work.

Too often, we focus on what we can do to help women get more flexibility, forgetting that men are an equally important piece of the puzzle.

Last year, CoreData undertook paternity research for HBF’s sub-brand, Direct Advice for Dads, in which we analysed the parental leave policies of Australia’s largest 500 companies by revenue and ranked Australia’s best places to work for new dads.

Shockingly, we found the average number of weeks paid secondary carer’s leave – the leave that can be taken at the same time as the primary carer and is usually taken by dads – was just 1.1 weeks.

More than a third of the biggest companies in Australia offer no paid secondary carer’s leave and only 7% provide more than two weeks.

While it’s reasonably commonplace these days to see parental leave policies incorporating paid primary carer’s leave, with some policies offering very generous benefits, the data suggests employers are coming up short in their support for working dads.

Why is this important? Because allowing men to take more paid leave, and in particular, giving them flexibility over when they can take primary and secondary carer's leave, will encourage women back into the workforce sooner. And in turn provide better outcomes for women’s financial future.

BalanceforBetter

We know that the superannuation gap for women is significant, and this is exacerbated by the gender pay gap, fewer women in full time roles, and time taken out of the workforce to raise children.

Women retire with an average super balance of $157,049 compared to $270,710 for men, according to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia. That’s a big problem in itself, but particularly when you consider the fact that women tend to live more than four years longer on average than men.

The super gap makes women more financially vulnerable, and understandably – according to our research for WA Super – sees us worrying more often than men about money, and more likely to be lacking confidence about our financial future.

Among Western Australian couples, females are more than three times as likely as males to feel they will need to rely on their partner’s financial support ‘to a large extent’.

We need to do more.

The current 9.5% Superannuation Guarantee doesn’t enable most women to accrue sufficient savings for a comfortable retirement.

Increasing the SG to 12% will help, as would paid super on parental leave, which some companies do offer. But the distribution of tax concessions also warrants government attention, given women receive just a third of tax concessions on super despite having lower super balances, worse expected retirement outcomes and longer life expectancy.

Industry has a role to play, too. CoreData’s research for Fidelity International, published this week, revealed women are more intimidated than men when it comes to buying shares. Yet owning shares is one way to attempt to narrow the gap.

The research, based on a survey of 1,222 Australians including 815 women, found women are more risk averse and typically adopt a goal-based approach to investing, rather than a performance-based strategy.

This sees them preference the safe haven of cash over shares, and highlights the need for the asset management industry to make investment more accessible and tailored to women.

As we roll towards International Women’s Day, we have a lot to celebrate, but it’s also a great opportunity to reflect on the role that all of us can play in continuing to level the playing field.

A woman’s place is indeed in the home. But it’s also in the workplace.

Because unlike my nanna, women today have the choice to work, or to stay home. And for that, I feel damn lucky.

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Kristen is a highly motivated and passionate researcher with nine years' experience in the market research industry. As Director of CoreData Western Australia, she is based in our Perth office and responsible for business development, client relationship management and project management across a diverse client base.

Kristen has a deep understanding of the financial services industry, strong client engagement skills and is a regular media commentator. Her Perth client base spans aged care, banks, super funds, not-for-profits and utilities.

Kristen is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, has a Master of Business Administration (Exec) from the Australian Graduate School of Management, a Bachelor of Arts, Journalism (with Distinction) from Curtin University of Technology and is a fully accredited member of the Australian Market and Social Research Society of Australia.

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