Cate Wood, Louise Davidson, Fiona Reynolds and Ann Marie Corboy

Women in Super celebrated 25 years at CMSF 2019. The organisation has achieved a lot since it began as a networking breakfast and has become the voice of women in superannuation.

Speaking on a panel of women who were involved in Women in Super (WIS) since its foundation, Cate Wood, national chair and spokesperson of WIS, said the organisation had achieved a lot but unfortunately the work is not yet done.

“We would hope that 25 years on that we wouldn’t have to exist; that there wasn’t a pay issue, there was more flexibility and that women’s’ retirement incomes were equal,” Wood says.

There is still a significant gap in retirement incomes based on gender. On average women retire with 47 per cent less superannuation than men, and WIS has a range of objectives including policy and advocacy efforts around equality in retirement incomes.

The Make Super Fair campaign was launched in 2017 and is a five point plan to address the structural inequalities in the superannuation system.

One of the barriers to women growing their super pot is the legislated threshold of $450 monthly income on SG contributions. WIS is lobbying to have this limit removed.

It is also lobbying to get super paid on parental leave.

One of the great achievements of WIS has been the Mother’s Day Classic, a fun run that raises money for breast cancer research.

Co-founded 21 years ago by Mavis Robertson and Louise Davidson, now CEO of ACSI, the Mother’s Day Classic has raised more than $35 million for breast cancer research.

Davidson said Women in Super has created an environment where women don’t feel like they are “other”, that this is not their place.

“The money we have raised for breast cancer research has been significant, but as significant has been other things we have provided, such as comfort the event has provided to people who have been impacted by breast cancer and helping to drive the awareness message,” she said.

WIS offers women in the industry networking and career development and hosts a range of events that members can attend in nearly every state. Volunteer committees are also funding career opportunities and development.

The WIS national roadshow is used as a way to draw attention in the industry to important issues. For example when Rosie Batty spoke, WIS used that to launch a domestic violence charter that many super funds have now signed on to.

While Wood said that WIS has prioritised advocacy on equality around retirement outcomes, she acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done on equality of pay.

“Over time we will also look at how employers in superannuation are dealing with their female employees and wage outcomes..

Ann Marie Corboy, former CEO of HESTA and one of the first WIS members, said 25 years was a great achievement and paid tribute to WIS founder Mavis Robertson.

“Would we do things differently if we were introducing a compulsory super scheme now, yes. There are a lot more women working, there is more casualisation in the workforce, and I think we need to redesign the system for fairness and equity across the board,” she said.

Fiona Reynolds, CEO of PRI who was a champion for WIS and its creation in her former role as head of CMSF, also said there was still a lot of work to be done.

“First WIS event I went to there were five people,” she said

“Women need to be big advocates for change. The reasons WIS started are still relevant: Less than 5 per cent of women are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies; only 21 per cent of directors corporate boards are women of OECD; and there is a pay gap and a super gap,” Reynolds said.

“But women are getting more empowered to do things and are standing up to be counted.”