Women in Australia have made significant strides over the past century.
We have gained the right to vote, secured a legal right to equal pay for work of equal value, and gained legal protections against discrimination because of sex and other grounds.
In 1977 Victoria reached a milestone when the Equal Opportunity Act was introduced, outlawing discrimination on the basis of sex and marital status in employment.
We’ve secured paid parental leave and we live in a country that is one of several ranked first for women’s educational attainment.
Compared to many other countries, women in Australia fair pretty well. For example, Australia ranked 36th of 140 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap Report.
Yet, if you scratch beneath the surface, it is clear that women continue to experience inequality and disadvantage in Australia and that sex discrimination, family violence and sexual harassment are all too prevalent.
Women are under-represented in federal parliament – of 30 ministers just seven are women.
Women are three times more likely than men to experience violence at the hands of a partner.
Women earn less than men – the latest figures from the Workforce Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) put the gender pay gap at 19.1%.
Retired women are twice as likely as men to spend their retirement in poverty. Data collected by the WGEA shows that an average $17,243 difference in annual base salary results in full-time women receiving $1,643 per year less in superannuation contributions on average than full-time men.
Clearly, despite 40 years of anti-discrimination legislation, we still have a long way to go.
Our conversation about gender equality needs to include an understanding of intersectionality. More than just a buzzword of the moment, intersectionality is about examining the whole range of experiences that women face. Not all women are white, educated, middle class or professional. Not all women live in cities and have access to the same support services they may need.
We also need to keep working to identify and address barriers that women face. Whether that be in the workplace in terms of equal pay or more flexible workplaces, through to the right for us all to feel safe in our workplaces, homes and communities.
Some deliberately misrepresent or try to derail the gender equality discussion to imply that women are trying to 'take' something from men. Such views are dangerous because they can fuel more extreme views.
However, I am really heartened to see gender equality firmly on the national agenda, and I’m sure high profile appointments such as David Morrison AO as Australian of the Year will help keep the conversation going. It’s an important step forward in the recognition that gender equality is not just a women’s problem: gender equality affects us all. I will try to tap in to that momentum with our work alongside the Victorian Male Champions of Change – men in leadership positions who are committed to improving the role of women in the workplace.
International Women’s Day is often seen as a time to celebrate the advances that women have made over the years, but importantly, it is also an opportunity for us to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead.
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner
New resources launched for International Women's Day
To mark International Women's Day we have refreshed the My work rights website.
The site helps people identify discriminatory behaviour, providing mixed media examples of behaviour that is against the law, plus links to more information and resources.
And if you are experiencing discrimination or sexual harassment yourself, or if you have witnessed it in your workplace, My work rights has some suggestions about what you can do next.
Also in time for International Women's Day, the Commission has released a new infographic poster highlighting some of the facts about gender inequality in Australia.
Download the poster so you can print it yourself!