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Media release: 102 Years On – Women’s Equality Far From Reality (7/3/13)

Australian women are still paid less than men and financially worse off.

Friday 8 March 2013 marks the hundred and second International Women’s Day since 1911. In 1911 over a million women and men in four European countries demanded women’s suffrage and protested against employment sex discrimination. More than a century later, Australia sadly still has a long way to go in addressing key women’s issues including the ever-widening gender pay gap.

Even though almost 10% more Australian women aged 25-34 years than similarly aged men have higher education qualifications, women in Australia

  • earn 17.4% less than men
  • have just over half of what men have in superannuation balances, and
  • make up only 3.5% of CEOs in Australia’s top 200 ASX companies.

And while public awareness of family violence has increased in recent years, at least one in five Australian women today will have experienced sexual or family violence. Family violence is the largest single reason that single women, young women and women with children seek help from homelessness services in Australia.

Last year not-for-profit women’s organisation WIRE Women’s Information gave free and confidential information, support and referrals to over 12,700 contacts on a wide range of topics. Top contact issues included family violence and relationships, employment and training pathways, housing issues and mental health concerns.

“In Australia today, women continue to be the primary carers (both underpaid and unpaid) in Australia,” said WIRE Business Development Manager Julie Kun. “Women are saddled with lower wages, poorer employment options and long-term financial insecurity. No wonder poverty rates are highest among single mothers and a growing number of older women enter retirement impoverished and facing homelessness.

“Every day we hear from women that are overcoming discrimination and violence at home, the workplace and in the general community. This isn’t good enough. Australian women should expect and deserve nothing less than full equality.”

Some inroads have been made towards gender equality with paid parental leave and the community services workers’ successful equal remuneration case. However, Ms Kun pointed out, other structural changes are urgently needed so that all Australian women can have access to equal pay and job opportunities, financial security and personal safety. Key changes should include providing affordable child care, having single parenting payments that actually keep women and their children above the poverty line, and men sharing care responsibilities equally with women.

–end of media release–

A Woman’s Story

Beth* is forty-six years old and has a five-year-old daughter. When her daughter was born, she stopped her paid nursing job to look after her child, and relied solely on her husband’s income in the subsequent years at home. Her husband had tight control over the finances, requiring receipts for all expenditures including grocery shopping and refilling the car, but Beth was concerned for her safety if she challenged him. When her daughter approached school age, Beth returned to nursing work as a casual worker, and usually worked night shifts as her husband would be at home when her daughter was sleeping. Her earnings would go straight into her husband’s account – he said they would save on extra bank fees if they just used his account.

 Participating in a professional training course on financial abuse encouraged Beth recognise that her own husband of twenty years had been financially abusive towards her and eventually she left this relationship of 20 years. She and her daughter slept on a friend’s couch for two weeks before she was able to rent a small room.

 As a single parent with no savings of her own and only a casual job with irregular shifts, Beth is constantly worried about being able to pay the rent, utilities and childcare fees. She applied for many different permanent jobs, but was turned away because of her age and gender. When Beth rang WIRE for help, her daughter had fallen ill for a week and Beth couldn’t work. They then fell behind in the rent and were evicted soon after.

Beth is one of hundreds of women in Victoria who rang WIRE Women’s Information for support in the last 12 months. *Beth is a fictitious name used to protect the privacy of the caller.

 Australian Statistics

  • 38.5% of 25- to 34-year-old women had higher education qualifications compared with 29.9% of similarly aged men. (ABS, 2010)
  • Women’s average superannuation balances are $40,475 compared to $71,645 for men in 2009-2010 (ASFA, 2011)
  • Women make up only 3.5% of CEOs in Australia’s top 200 ASX companies (ABS 2012)
  • Women contributed 60% of 21.6 billion hours of unpaid care work across Australia in 2009-2010 (eS4W, 2012)
  • At least one in five Australian women today will have experienced sexual or family violence. (5/3/13 The Age ‘World stands up for women’s rights’ by Jacinta Le Plastrier)
  • Family violence is the largest single reason that single women, young women and women with children seek help from homelessness services in Australia – one in every two women with children seeking homelessness services was escaping a violent home situation. (2010-2011)
  • 84,000 women (62% of all people assisted) received support from specialist homelessness services.  (2009-2010)

WIRE Media Contact

Interview opportunity: WIRE Business Development Manager 0432 821 430  
Other media queries: Mi Fon Lew 9348 9416  
Visit WIRE’s Media Centre or follow Twitter @WIREwomensinfo

Download WIRE Media Release_102 Years On: Women’s Equality is Far From Reality (7March2013)

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