Women's Rights are Human Rights
International Women's Day 2023 - Bold ideas, tech & education transform the future for women
International Women’s Day’s (IWD) theme this year, “Cracking the Code: Innovation for a gender equal future," highlights the role that bold, transformative ideas, inclusive technologies, and accessible education can play in combating discrimination and the marginalisation of women globally.1
IWD celebrates women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements and advocates for gender equality. It has roots in early 20th-century activism when women demanded equal rights.
Since 1975, the United Nations (UN) officially recognises IWD to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. UN Women leads the global IWD campaign and works year-round to advance women’s rights and gender equality.
Women have achieved so much over the past 100 years, but we still have so far to go.
According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021, we’re about 136 years away from closing the global gender gap in the workplace. Not to mention that every single industry in Australia has a gender pay gap that favours men.
Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions. According to recent statistics, only 5% of ASX 200 CEOs are female. This disparity is even more stark when you consider that Australian CEO’s are most likely men named Andrew (7%) or Michael (5.5%).2
And female entrepreneurs are facing significant barriers when it comes to accessing capital. While funding for start-ups grew 10x between FY18 and FY22, less than 1% went to solely women-led founding teams.3
By highlighting these facts it strengthens our determination to continue the fight, make progress, and gradually change the culture so that women can reach their full potential, free from biases and gender stereotypes that have hindered their advancement.
What needs to change?
As of November 2021, women in Australia earn on average 13.4% less than men. (source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)). They are 1.5 times more likely to be in the lowest earning bracket, whilst men are twice as likely to be in the top bracket. These statistics rank Australia 43rd in the world on World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap Report 2021.”4
It is clear that we need to accelerate progress, but the gender pay gap is one measure of gender parity in the workplace, but it is not the only one. Other factors that can contribute to gender parity in the workplace include:
Access to parental leave & carers leave
Affordable child care
Representation of women in leadership positions and across traditionally male-dominated industries
Access to flexible work arrangements
Equal opportunities for career advancement and training
Support for return to work
Frequently, when families contemplate who will be responsible for taking a break from work to care for a newborn, the individual with the lower income is chosen. This typically results in women taking an extended leave of absence, as they often earn less due to the gender pay gap or working in lower-paying fields such as education or healthcare.
More than half of women don’t return to work after taking parental leave (58%).5 So it’s critical that employers use a program like triiyo (https://triiyo.com/) to help them navigate parenthood and work – from early pregnancy to return to work. triiyo encourages all parents to take leave helping to shift the internal cultural narrative and outdated stereotype from mothers being primary caregivers to promoting active leave-taking by all parents, resulting in more inclusive workplaces.
No matter who decides to stay at home with the baby, it’s critical that their employer supports and stays connected with them sure that person stays informed, supported and connected during every stage of workplace transitions.
Child care costs remain a significant financial burden for many families in Australia, particularly for those with low or moderate incomes. The cost of child care is often cited as a barrier to workforce participation for parents, particularly women, who may be forced to reduce their working hours or leave the workforce altogether in order to care for their children.
Flexible work arrangements can help working parents better manage their work and family responsibilities, support their children's needs, and promote their well-being. Parents often need to be available for their children's needs, such as picking them up from school or attending doctor's appointments. Flexible work arrangements can allow them to meet these needs without sacrificing their work commitments.
As working parents continue to face the challenge of balancing their professional and family obligations, flexible work arrangements are no longer an optional benefit but a necessary requirement. Whether through hybrid or remote work options, flexible arrangements allow parents to better manage their time and priorities, resulting in a more productive and satisfied workforce.
Additionally, by offering flexible work arrangements, companies can help to eliminate the stigma surrounding taking time off for family responsibilities, particularly for women who have traditionally assumed the primary caregiver role. By providing the opportunity to work remotely or on a hybrid schedule, companies can ensure that women can advance in their careers while still fulfilling their family responsibilities. This approach leads to a more diverse and inclusive workplace, creating a more engaged and loyal workforce.
Many working mothers struggle with maintaining their breastfeeding and childcare routines when they return to work. Being able to work from home or have more control over their schedules can help mothers balance both.
Providing access to training and development opportunities can help women to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to advance in their careers. This can also help increase the representation of women in leadership positions and other traditionally male-dominated roles.
Access to training and development opportunities can help women advance in male-dominated industries such as technology, increase representation in leadership positions, and address the gender pay gap. It also leads to a more engaged and satisfied workforce, positively impacting company culture and success.
A career break for women can hinder career progression and earning potential. Return to work programs can mitigate this impact by offering skill development and career advancement opportunities. These programs provide training, mentoring, and networking opportunities to address gaps in skills and experience caused by time away from work.
There is a growing trend of Return to Work programs focused on helping women who have taken a career break or been underemployed to reenter the workforce. With ANZ Bank kicking off their third intake this month, it has clearly been successful, and is expected to double in size compared to prior years.6
Where do we go from here?
When it comes to retaining and advancing women in leadership roles, the adage “You can’t be what you can see” is true., Only one out of 23 CEO appointments in the ASX300 in the 2021 reporting period was a woman and there are just 18 women CEOs in the top 300 ASX-listed companies (6.2%).7
By promoting gender parity in leadership and other roles, organisations can improve their performance and competitiveness. Research has shown that diverse organisations perform better financially and are better able to attract and retain top talent.
Achieving gender parity in the workforce will take proactive, daily action from everyone within an organisation, so it needs to be a cultural choice and a company-wide commitment.
Today’s workers expect more. Women aren’t going to put up with unequal pay, and men aren’t going to put up with not being able to care for their family.
For companies to attract and retain the future workforce, they need to take progressive action to policy and culture today so that they actually have a diverse and highly skilled workforce.
They also need to support their female staff – particularly during the periods before and after parental leave. I started triiyo (https://triiyo.com/) because I didn’t receive the support I needed when I had my child, and maintaining a connection with staff on parental leave can mean the difference between an employee who returns .. and one who doesn’t.
It’s not just the right thing to do, gender equality would lead to global economic growth of $2.88 trillion AUD.”8
International Women's Day is really important because it continues to raise awareness and start the conversation about gender equality. But it shouldn't happen just on one day, or one month of the year.
To achieve a gender equal future, we need to embrace the theme of bold, transformative ideas, inclusive technologies, and accessible education. These factors can help combat discrimination and marginalisation of women worldwide.
We must acknowledge these facts and continue fighting to shift the culture, remove biases, and eliminate gender stereotypes. Only then can women achieve their full potential and contribute to a truly equitable society. Let's play our part in being the change so we leave a legacy that future generations can be proud of and that benefits them.
If you want to explore how you can better support your female staff, please reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org