Dear friends and supporters,
This week marked International Women’s Day and to be honest it’s an occasion I have mixed feelings about.
Celebrating and recognising the tremendous efforts and achievements of women and girls around the world is fantastic. Putting the spotlight on gender inequity is fantastic too. But I suppose that’s where I have an uneasy feeling: we need to be acting on closing the gender gap all year around.
Women were at the front line of the COVID-19 crisis - in Australia and all over the world, as health care workers, caregivers, managers and community organisers in combating the pandemic. The crisis highlighted the centrality of their contributions - but it has also highlighted and exacerbated the inequality women still face.
Our recent report makes clear that gender inequality is bad for children, parents and families. The policies that Australia needs to provide the best support for families in the early years are policies that are proven to close the gender gap.
It includes adequate and equitable paid parental leave. Australia has one of the least adequate paid parental leave schemes that puts mothers and fathers on markedly different paths from the moment a baby arrives. It’s usually the mum who stops working and stays at home to look after the children while the dad keeps working. It’s not surprising that Australia has one of the highest gender pay gaps in the Western world and that Australian women are retiring with 36% less superannuation than men.
Early childhood education and care fees in Australia are among the highest in the world which is why participation rates in early childhood education lag global peers and why Australia’s female workforce participation is peculiarly low. Workplace discrimination against mothers is prolific and it is quite telling that women make up just 37.7% of all full-time employees but 68.2% of all part-time employees.
These are all structural drivers of gender inequity which remains stubbornly entrenched. Stereotypical gender roles prevail among parents in Australia in a way they don’t in other nations.
There is incredible urgency around accelerating Australia’s efforts to reduce inequality. On Thursday I co-signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, along with many other business and community leaders, that Nicola Forrest wrote asking Scott Morrison to prioritise women in the upcoming Federal Budget.
In recent weeks the absence of dignity and decency in the government’s treatment of women – inside and outside Parliament House – has unleashed an organic uprising among women and men who are fed up. Fed up enough to come together and say ‘enough is enough’.
If we can’t keep women safe inside Parliament House, where our laws are made and power sits, how can we keep women safe anywhere?
That question is why on Monday the 15th March, thousands of people around the country are planning to attend a #March4Justice. There are over 40 events planned in capital cities as well as in regional and rural communities.
I will be attending in Canberra with pride. Addressing inequity between men and women will significantly improve the lives of parents and children and families in Australia.
We’ve started a campaign calling on Scott Morrison to do better for Aussie parents and children. To make Australia the best place in the world to be a parent we need:
- Universal health and wellbeing support for parents and children through pregnancy and the early years
- One year of paid parental leave equally shared between parents
- Free and high quality early childhood education & care
- Flexible and supportive workplaces with universal access to paid carers’ leave for sick children