International Women’s Day is held annually on 8 March and is a chance to celebrate women’s achievements, recognise the progress we have made towards equality and to highlight where we still need to focus to reach that goal. The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is ‘Generation Equality’. Every generation is needed in this work, to achieve a world where women and girls everywhere have the opportunity to reach their potential and to fully participate and succeed in their communities.
While we have come far in pushing for changes to improve women’s access to equal opportunities, both financial and in other areas in society, we still have challenges to face. 2020 marks a hundred years since legislation was passed to enable women to run for Parliament in Western Australia. Since then we have had 93 women elected to Parliament out of a total of 621 people.
Women make up 50 per cent of our population in Western Australia but women are still underrepresented in senior leadership positions. A diverse range of voices representing our communities in Western Australia can contribute to better outcomes and the same has been shown for gender diversity in business. Bringing a focus to the benefits of gender equality for our community can help us improve in these areas faster.
Gender equality can bring about many benefits for men and women. Increasing the number of organisations that have policies or strategies about flexible working arrangements means that both men and women have more access to choices about their work-life balance and parenting arrangements. Historically, due to legislation and gender stereotypes, men have struggled to access flexible working arrangements. That has impacted on their ability to spend time with their family and be actively involved in parenting in the way that women have been.
Women’s larger contributions to unpaid work including volunteering, housework and parenting has contributed to women retiring with an average of only 60 per cent of the superannuation balances of men. Financial inequality can contribute to other negative outcomes and in Western Australia, women make up 68 per cent of adults accessing homelessness services.
The past century has shown us how far we have come and it is important to remember that these changes did not happen without the efforts of many women and men who knew the importance of gender equality and the need to fix areas of law that disadvantaged women. We can celebrate those people who have helped us get this far and join those men and women who still stand up against inequality and disadvantage today.
This International Women’s Day, we invite you to get involved and show your support and celebrate the contributions that women make to our communities in WA. Individuals and organisations can get more information in our Toolkit, which will also give you ideas for organising an event.
For further information on this issue and for resources to help you raise awareness of International Women’s Day visit www.communities.wa.gov.au/IWD.