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Four opportunities for women in 2021

·4-min read
Young Australian mixed race family carries the shopping in together and hugs after being at school and work
Women are still taking on most unpaid work, and it's denting equality. Image: Getty.

Monday 8 March marks International Women’s Day. Follow Yahoo Finance as we explore how 2020 impacted Australian women.

The timeframe for achieving financial gender equality has increased to 101 years, from a revised 100 years, as women continue to do the lion’s share of care and housework tasks in and out of the family home, the Financy Women’s Index shows.

The calculation for this rather depressing news is based on the rate of change in the unpaid work gender gap, which in 2019 only got worse for women, even before the coronavirus blurred the lines between paid and unpaid work.

Data on unpaid work contained in the ABS Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey taken in December 2020 and published in February of this year, found that women were twice as likely as men to have spent 20 or more hours a week on caring for and supervising children (27 per cent compared with 13 per cent).

Roger Wilkins, co-author of the HILDA report said it “seems likely” COVID would have increased the unpaid work disparity in 2020, which would only add to the timeframe to equality in the future.

“The increase in child care provided at home brought about by closure of child care centres and learning from home is likely to have been disproportionately borne by women,” says Wilkins.

While women face a more challenging task of achieving equality with men because of longstanding gender stereotypes at home, work and in education, the coronavirus is also distorting trends in employment and wages.

For instance, despite positive momentum and year-on-year gains in female workforce participation, 2020 has basically halted 20 years of employment progress for women.

The gender pay gap also only narrowed to 13.4 per cent in November 2020, as reported in February this year, from 14 per cent in August, because men's wages went backwards while women’s inched higher.

In annual terms, women’s financial progress is headed in the right direction, and finished the year 1.3 points higher for 2020, compared to 72.7 points in December 2019. The Index peaked at 76.3 points in the September quarter.

A stronger year for the appointment of women to ASX200 board positions, up 6 percentage points to 32.6 per cent and the best improvement in the gender pay gap since June 2018, helped drive the Index higher and cushion a 3 per cent collapse in progress during the December quarter.

“To speed up progress, we need cultural change to recognise the benefits of a more gender diverse workplace and greater female participation in it at all levels,” says Dr Shane Oliver Chief Economist AMP Capital.

“This starts in the nation’s schools and runs all the way to board rooms and the nation’s parliaments. The pandemic has shown that the technology – to enable greater workplace diversity through workplace flexibility – is there to help make this happen,” says Oliver.

The Women’s Index shows it’s expected to take 21 years to achieve equality in the national gender pay gap, 33 years in employment, 18 years in underemployment, seven years for women on boards and 38 years to close the gender gap in superannuation savings.

So where are the opportunities for Australian women in 2021?

  • Male dominated industries of Transport, Postal and Warehousing and Construction did the most hiring of women in the December quarter. Gender diversity is gradually improving in these sectors.

  • Women accounted for nearly 43 per cent of all new ASX200 board appointments in 2020, which is the best yearly result since record keeping began in 2011. The momentum is looking more positive for women in leadership.

  • Education is the only indicator where financial related progress has largely stopped as women continue to select pathways that lead to lower future expected earnings, relative to men. Okay so we know this now, so let's get into schools and start talking about turning this around.

  • The gender pay gap largest in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services, Financial and Insurance Services, and Health Care and Social Assistance but smallest in Other Services and Public Administration and Safety. Bit of insight here if you are job hunting!

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman is the author of the Financy Women’s Index and founder of women’s money website financy.com.au. She is also a proud contributor and supporter of Yahoo Finance’s Women’s Money Movement.

Take control of your money and learn to maximise it with the Women’s Money Movement! Join the club on LinkedIn and follow Yahoo Finance Australia on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to the free Fully Briefed daily newsletter.

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