Debby Blakey, HESTA CEO

Selecting a card or ordering flowers for Mother’s Day is an opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation for the significant role mothers play in our lives.

It is also essential to recognise and acknowledge women’s contribution to society and take steps to ensure they receive the recognition and support they deserve.

Yet, despite years of progress, women in Australia continue to face significant challenges in achieving equal economic participation. Women, particularly those in health and community services, often work casual roles that are considered low to middle income.

This perpetuates the gender pay gap, ultimately leaving them with less money in super on average than men. Increasing women’s workforce participation is one of the most effective ways to improve financial security and boost the Australian economy.

Gender targets address inequality

In my view, gender targets are essential because they address the unequal treatment and opportunities women and other marginalised genders face due to gender stereotypes, biases and discrimination.

Gender targets can take many forms, including quotas, affirmative action policies and targets for representation and participation. These measures help to increase the visibility and voice of women and other marginalised genders in decision-making processes, leadership positions, and other areas where they have been historically under-represented or excluded.

HESTA’s 40:40 Vision is an investor-led initiative founded on the principle that target setting is more effective than disclosure alone to drive progress. It is now supported by investors representing more than $6 trillion in funds under management.

Closing the pay gap

Research by BankWest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) and Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) shows a 40:40:20 gender split (40 per cent identifying as women, 40 per cent identifying as men, and 20 per cent as any gender) in the workforces of all industries would reduce Australia’s gender pay gap by a third.

By setting targets and making progress visible, companies will be motivated to take meaningful action toward improving gender equality.

Another overlooked area is the value of unpaid care work, which is essential to Australia’s economy. Without it, many households would be unable to function, and the country’s economic productivity would suffer. Women taking time off work, or working less than they could, can result from the time spent doing unpaid care work.

According to WGEA, the value of unpaid care work in Australia is estimated to be a staggering $650.1 billion annually. Despite this enormous economic benefit to the country, this figure is not included in the calculation of GDP. Improving key productivity indicators so that the value of domestic tasks is tracked and appropriately captured will enable better decision-making by policymakers, investors, and market participants.

We acknowledge and welcome the Federal government’s commitment to an evidence-based Women’s Budget Statement and its commitment to a wellbeing budget. We believe these frameworks for budgeting should continue to build on improved economic measures that better capture the contribution of women and help close the gender super gap.

By implementing mandatory target setting for large employers, valuing unpaid care work, and investing in companies that promote gender equality, we could create a more equitable and inclusive economy that values the contributions of all members of society.

The time for action is now.

Debby Blakey is chief executive of HESTA



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