This year the UN Women Australia’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future’. This theme highlights the part that innovative ideas and new technologies can play in progressing towards gender equity and equality. Let’s look at how gender inequity can affect physical, mental and financial wellbeing, and how we can bring about change.
The gender pay gap
- Women are more likely to have fragmented work patterns, often due to taking primary responsibility for family care.
- Fewer women occupy senior executive and board level positions.
- Women make up a majority of part-time and casual workers, in generally lower paid positions.
- More women work in administrative roles, community services and sales, which historically pay less than male-dominated occupations.
- Women are more strongly represented in the ‘sandwich’ generation – those people who have families at an older age, who are then tasked with taking care of children while also caring for ageing parents.
How inequality erodes women’s financial wellbeing
The link between inequality and mental health
- Uncertainty about paying bills, covering expenses and supporting a family – all of which can cause immediate stress.
- Long-term anxiety about future finances and retirement – particularly if women feel they aren’t saving or putting away enough super.
- Feelings of lesser worth and injustice – due to earning less than their male peers.
- Pressure to return to work earlier than desired after pregnancy – due to financial necessity, creating separation anxiety and concern for their child’s wellbeing.
How inequality takes its toll physically
- Delay medical treatment due to out-of-pocket costs, even if they are badly injured. This can exacerbate injuries, increasing their severity and the potential for more extensive treatment later in life.
- Return to work sooner than advised after injury, illness or pregnancy. Being unable to fully recover can lead to further injury.
How do we close the gap?
- Conducting a pay gap analysis – review, address and improve pay equity within their own organisation.
- Promoting women into leadership – design roles that give more women the opportunity to lead.
- Creating a flexible working environment – change the standard working arrangement to better accommodate employee commitments outside of work, including part-time roles.
- Reviewing their paid parental leave policy – create a gender-neutral policy and encourage more men to take parental leave.
- Reviewing recruitment inclusivity practices – consider whether application processes, interview invitations and styles, and evaluation criteria are excluding individuals based on gender and age (as well as other intersectional biases such as race, ethnicity and disability).
Some steps that women can take to help make a difference include:
- Carrying out research – check your salary against the industry standard to ensure you are being paid fairly. You can also check the WGEA website for employer gender pay gap reports.
- Sorting super – can you afford to make additional contributions? Do you have multiple funds? Also check to see how much you are paying in fees and if this can be reduced.
- Speaking to an expert for help – advice from a financial planner can help identify areas where you can strengthen your financial position. This can protect your future and give you greater peace of mind.
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